Here are a few facts about women:
• They typically make less than men.
• They are more likely to have worked part time at least some of their lives.
• They typically work in lower-paying professions or just make less than men.
• They live longer than men. In Raleigh, there are nearly 2-1/2 times as many women as men over the age of 85.
• They don’t make planning and saving money for retirement a priority.
Kathy Kraeblen, who is a financial planner with PNC Wealth Management in Raleigh, said that in her experience, women will save for a child’s college fund rather than their own retirement, or they’ll use their money to care for aging parents. And if they’re married, she said, they tend to let their husband make the financial decisions.
All of which leaves them uncomfortable with their financial situation, but Kraeblen said that can change.
Here are her suggestions for women (good for men, too):
1. Develop a budget and start building an emergency fund.
“Take a look at where you’re spending money,” she said. “We can all find ways to cut back. We make choices about spending or saving.”
She points out that Americans are notoriously bad savers despite our apparent wealth as a nation. “There are many countries where people make less but save more,” she said.
2. Educate yourself.
“Knowledge is power,” she said, and women can start by educating themselves about their finances and becoming familiar with financial terms.
“Think about how you like to learn,” she said.
• If you are a reader, turn to the Internet, where you can find self-serve sites that explain financial terms and help you figure out whether you’re ready for retirement (see accompanying resources box).
• If you do best with discussion, find a group of like-minded friends and explore a topic together.
• If you’re still working, take advantage of any retirement seminars or 401(k) planning sessions your company offers.
• Ask your bank whether it will provide free consultations.
3. Consult with a fee-based financial planner. You may not think you have enough money for a financial adviser, but they don’t just manage assets. Planners can provide a consultation to tell you whether you’re on the right track or what you need to do to get on track toward retirement.
“Part of our job is to educate our clients about finances,” Kraeblen said. She suggests interviewing the adviser first.
“This is all personal, and you want to be comfortable with the person. … “If you’re meeting as a couple, is the adviser talking to both of you? If the adviser is focusing on just one of you, that’s a warning sign.”
As for the learning, “Ask them to explain a concept you’re interested in, a typical investment or savings vehicle. How satisfactory was their explanation? How comfortable is the adviser in helping you learn?”
4. Be proactive. “Don’t worry about what you haven’t done,” she said. “Worry about what you’re going to do now.”