Learning Financial Proficiency Before It’s Too Late
Most couples divide the home responsibilities to play to each other’s strongest skill set. With each couple these responsibilities differ – men may do lawn work and home repairs, while the women handle the laundry and manage the home’s interior design. But you’ll find women who do car repairs and men who are stay-at-home dads.
One of the key questions on home management is who handles the finances? When the man takes on these duties, oftentimes the wife doesn’t know where their insurance policies are, how much money is owed on the mortgage and what investments are held. Also what about the names and phone numbers of their accountant, lawyer and financial planner?
For women this is especially important because they frequently face greater financial challenges than men. Eight in ten women will become the sole financial decision-maker at some point in their lives, often because of divorce or widowhood. Women typically live seven years longer than men, but earn, on average, 25 percent less. The average age of widowhood, believe it or not, is 56.
If you are the one who manages your home finances, does your spouse know the answers to these vital questions?
An Ounce of Prevention
Women who are unprepared may not fare well. Older women are more than twice as likely as men to be impoverished in their retirement years. Three in four people older than 65 who receive Social Security income are women.
Unfortunately, according to Neale Godfrey, author of Making Change: A Woman’s Guide to Designing Her Financial Future, “Women are disempowered when it comes to handling money. In fact, 85 percent of women do financial planning in crisis,” she writes. “The time to learn the Heimlich maneuver is not when you’re choking at the dinner table; it’s before you sit down and eat.”
According to Godfrey, “Women were raised to be disempowered with money. We were raised by women from the Donna Reed generation. People didn’t talk about money. There was someone else in our life to handle that part. We weren’t given the tools.”
Of course, anyone can develop the necessary tools. “Women feel that we have to do everything,” writes Godfrey. “You don’t have to do it (financial planning); you just have to know about it.”
The goal of becoming financially educated and competent may seem daunting. However, take one step at a time. Learn one aspect of your financial situation each week and check it off the list when you feel well-versed. Here is a simple checklist of important information you need.
- The location of all bank accounts and safe deposit boxes
- Details of all insurance policies, the agent’s name and when the premiums are due
- Cash value of each policy and how to borrow money against any of them
- Monthly payments on all mortgages and the amount that is still owed on them
- Location of all receipts needed for tax purposes
- Accountant’s name and an understanding of all joint tax returns
- Investments and their value; meet with the financial adviser
- Amount of monthly bills
- Details of the will; meet with the lawyer
- Balances on all credit cards
- Outstanding debts
- Spousal benefits of any pension
- Details of any trusts
- Location of all important papers, including the will and whether a living will exists
Be proactive, not reactive, for yourself and for your spouse. The best time to master these skills is before a crisis hits. Responses like, “I always let my husband do that,” or “I have no clue where that information is” will not keep you afloat if you find yourself alone.
Start taking control. Visualize your financial empowerment and work toward it.
Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Independent Financial Partners, a registered investment advisor. Independent Financial Partners and Connors Wealth Management are separate entities from LPL Financial.
Justin Connors is a financial advisor at Connors Wealth Management in Cocoa Beach. He can be contacted at (321) 868-0732 or firstname.lastname@example.org