Women: Be the Captain of Your Personal Financial Team

Guest post by Mary Merrell Bailey, Esq. CPA MBA MS Taxation MS Accounting

We women might not think of ourselves as rough, tough athletes, but we participate in this game called “life” for about 81 years – easily outrunning men by five years.  Yet, we are starting behind.  While recent studies reveal that financial capability among working women is improving, closing the financial literacy gap has a long way to go as it relates to retired women and older widows. Women will be alone and in charge of ourselves for a long period of time.  Win by choosing a personal team of professionals to help you along the way.

Who should be on your team?  If you are like me, your first draft pick will be your hair stylist.  Next rounds might go to your physician and dentist.  You likely have a nail technician.  You may even have a lawn service and an auto mechanic.  But statistics show that you probably don’t have an estate planning attorney, CPA, or financial planner on your speed dial – and you need these financial professionals at your side to be successful.

Voluminous research reveals that financial incapability is more widespread among single women and widows who do not have a partner or spouse to consult when making financial decisions.  On average, women become widows before age 58, finding themselves suddenly to be heads of their households.  The U. S. Census Bureau shows that the percent of women who live in a household without a spouse increases from 40% to 84% from age 55 to 85.  Most distressing, however, is learning that single, divorced or widowed females, who are retired or entering their retirement years, are financially less prepared to take care of themselves than men.

According to the 2014 TIAA-CREF Institute’s Working Women’s Financial Capability Study, spearheaded by Professor Annamaria Lusardi of the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center, 55% of the women surveyed indicated they participated in self-directed retirement savings accounts. However, only 44% have tried to figure out how much they should save for retirement. Another startling statistic from the TIAA study found that 46% did not know whether a single company stock is riskier than a stock mutual fund.

Particularly disturbing in the TIAA study is the finding that, “despite their high levels of indebtedness, apparent financial fragility, and low financial literacy levels, working women do not frequently seek professional financial advice.”

So how do you captain your winning team?

Look for professionals who connect with women by targeting their educational outreach. The messaging must be clear and communicated in a non-condescending manner – no “mansplaining,” please!  The use of case examples and specific planning scenarios can help women apply strategies to their own situations.

At our law firm, we communicate the following key messages:

  • Accept the reality that, as women, we likely will live longer than our spouses and must prepare ourselves for when we, alone, will be required to make well-informed choices.
  • Although your spouse historically may have taken the lead as it relates to decision making involving retirement planning and investments, it’s never too late for you to become engaged and proactive in that process.
  • Attend financial seminars. Check out library books on the topic.  Watch videos and listen to podcasts that pertain to financial preparedness.
  • If you are married, sit down with your spouse and request to be “debriefed” on matters involving family retirement and financial accounts and estate planning documents. Keep track of the passwords and log-ins to access digital accounts and information.
  • Make an appointment with a financial advisor, a CPA, and an estate planning attorney to assess your preparedness for decades of retirement.
  • Immediately put in place legal documents to appoint trusted loved ones to help you as you age. Examples include, but may not be limited to:
    • Last Will & Testament
    • Revocable Living Trust
    • Durable Power of Attorney
    • Healthcare Surrogate
    • Living Will

The good news is that many women are recognizing the need to increase their knowledge to close the gender gap in financial literacy.  It also is encouraging to note that women are more likely than men to change their behavior after attending a seminar on retirement goals and saving behavior, according to Professor Lusardi’s research.

Our firm is happy to be a resource for those who want to learn more about estate planning and retirement.  Please visit the Learning Center under the “Resources” tab of our website, or call us at
(407) 622-1900 to schedule a consultation.

Your Caring Law Firm is a boutique law firm founded by Mary Merrell Bailey Esq. CPA MBA MSTaxation MSAccounting, and Hallie Zobel, Esq.  Located in Maitland, FL, a suburb of Orlando, the firm offers probate, wills, trusts, guardianship, estate planning, and asset protection planning services to clients throughout Florida. With deep roots in the community, Your Caring Law Firm prides itself on its ability to deliver a rare combination of sophisticated legal advice that draws upon sound business, tax and accounting knowledge, while providing a caring, attentive environment for clients to make some of the most important decisions of their lives. For information, visit www.YourCaringLawFirm.com.  The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of NuView IRA or its employees.