1. By the time a woman hits 40, there are a lot of variables she may be facing financially, especially if she's dealing with a blended family, supporting a spouse, or starting over again financially. What are some of the most common financial situations you see for women in their 40s?
I used to do some work for a law firm, providing a financial overview for divorced couples after their divorce is final. 90% of those that took advantage of the session were women (average age 40-50) and overwhelmingly what I found was that most were legitimately surprised about their financial situation. I don’t think the post breakup financials for everything from current cash flow to retirement savings were properly thought out or negotiated. It can be devastating to find out that you can’t afford your home and have to move out. Another issue I see with women is their desire to pay for their children’s college in full. Even divorced women with limited resources seem to want to go down this path. That can be a huge expense and usually a very difficult strain on family finances, especially if it is a single paycheck household. First thing I tell them is don’t commit to that for your children unless your retirement is fully funded.
2. What are the most important ways a woman in her 40s should protect her assets, even if she is blissfully coupled? Make sure you have the appropriate levels of insurance. I think many women don’t give this enough due diligence. Disability Insurance is so very important as women age (men too for that matter). We are three times more likely to be disabled than die before we retire. If your employer doesn’t provide one as part of your benefits package, get a commercial package but don’t go without it. Have enough life insurance to provide for your family should something happen to you. There are many cases where the woman is the major breadwinner for the family. Should her paycheck suddenly disappear, it would be a real hardship. Also, check out long term care policies. Take a look in any nursing home, vast majority of residents are women. This care can really drawdown assets in a hurry. Get a quote for LTC, see if it fits your budget.
3. What are the most fair ways to arrange or split finances if one partner makes more than the other? Or should it all just go in one pot? I like the single pot approach. However, I have created budgets for remarried couples. A lot of them have some kind of arrangement like 50-50 for all household expenses, groceries, etc. Then they are on their own for autos or other activities they want to do. Seems to work for those that I worked with. As long as the arrangement is understood upfront, it’s usually OK.
4. Anything else people should know?
A lot of women in their 40’s don’t understand how their money is invested – like in 401ks or IRAs. They really seem to be clueless about this and that is very important to funding their retirement.
Where do you start to take control of your financial life? Read books, ask people, and you can also contact Kevin or another fee-only financial advisor through NAPFA. Happy planning!