By Robbin Narike Preciado
In recent decades, women have made incredible strides, both professionally and personally. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, more women are attending college and taking on greater responsibilities and leadership roles in the workplace. According to a 2013 Pew Research study, women are the leading or solo breadwinners in 40 percent of households. With increasing numbers of women taking the reins on the family finances, it is important that women stay aware of changing needs so we are able to make smart financial choices.
Single women should develop smart financial habits as soon as they begin working and supporting themselves. Start by establishing an emergency fund that will provide protection in case of a job loss, a costly medical issue, or other unforeseen circumstance. Learn how to create a budget and live within your means. Establish a record-keeping system and get in the habit of paying bills on time. Pay off credit cards and student loans as quickly as possible and avoid getting further into debt. Open a savings account and make regular deposits. Learn about investing to grow your savings, and if your employer offers a 401k or other retirement plan, be sure to take full advantage of this and other benefits.
Couples should have a serious discussion about finances before marriage. Talk about your financial goals and habits to get a sense of how compatible you are in this area. Consider getting financial counseling.
With about 40 percent of all marriages ending in divorce and with women typically living longer than men, it is critical that women take an active role in the household finances. Develop a household budget together and get into the habit of communicating regularly about goal setting, budget and cash flow, insurance and investing. Create a will and purchase adequate insurance coverage to protect yourself financially in the event of an accident, death or disaster. Meet as a couple with your banker, accountant and financial planner, and know where all of your accounts and investments are held and where all of your important documents are kept.
Establishing a will and/or living trust becomes increasingly important once you start a family. Review your insurance policies and make changes to reflect your new beneficiaries.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it will cost the average family about $235,000 to raise a child to the age of 17, and that figure doesn’t include the cost of a college education. If you plan to pay for some or all of your child’s college education, begin exploring 529 College Savings Plans and other options that may offer tax advantages. If you are faced with the choice of paying for college or saving for retirement, most financial advisors warn against delaying funding your retirement savings to pay for college. College-aged children can get summer jobs and part-time employment to help foot the bill, or consider a student loan or other financial aid.
Some women find themselves caring for their children and aging parents, and in many cases this support involves not only time and emotional capital, but financial support. Talk to your parents early about their estate planning and long-term care plans. If you have siblings, discuss ways to help each other share the responsibility.
If you are facing a divorce, pay close attention to any accounts or assets that you hold jointly with your spouse. Cancel any joint credit cards and begin establishing accounts in your name only. Amend your will and insurance policies to change your beneficiaries if necessary. Ask trusted friends and advisors for referrals for a qualified family law attorney. If your ex-husband was the primary bread winner, seek alimony, especially if you left the workforce to care for children. While alimony has historically been a benefit provided to women after a divorce, if you are a high earner, you may be required to pay alimony. Meet with a financial advisor who can help you transition.
Meet with a financial advisor to make adjustments to your investment portfolio, and begin planning for changes in cash flow and budgeting so you are able to live on your retirement income. Housing needs may change and downsizing your home may be a consideration.
Seek information about Social Security income you may have coming and when you should start claiming benefits. If you have outstanding debt, work to pay it down or off. Evaluate your medical insurance, and consider purchasing long-term care insurance to cover healthcare expenses should you require personal assistance later.
Avoid making any major decisions while still grieving and turn to your trusted financial advisors for guidance. Your attorney can also guide you and make modifications to your will and powers of attorney to reflect your new circumstances. Contact your insurance agent to discuss life insurance coverage you may have, and apply for any other benefits that you may be entitled to, such as Social Security, employer or veterans’ benefits. Contact your bank and other financial institutions to make changes to your jointly held accounts, and meet with your financial planner to assess your current needs and assets.
This article reflects the thoughts and opinions of the author and is being provided for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be considered financial or tax advice. Please consult your financial or tax advisor about your situation.
Robbin Narike Preciado
Robbin Narike Preciado is a regional president for Southern California. MUFG Union Bank, N.A., is a full-service bank with offices across the United States. We provide a wide spectrum of corporate, commercial and retail banking and wealth management solutions to meet the needs of customers. We also offer an extensive portfolio of value-added solutions for customers, including investment banking, personal and corporate trust, global custody, transaction banking, capital markets, and other services. With assets of $115.4 billion, as of December 31, 2015, MUFG Union Bank has strong capital reserves, credit ratings and capital ratios relative to peer banks. MUFG Union Bank is a proud member of the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (NYSE: MTU), one of the world’s largest financial organizations with total assets of approximately ¥295.8 trillion (JPY) or $2.5 trillion (USD)¹, as of December 31, 2015. The corporate headquarters (principal executive office) for MUFG Americas Holdings Corporation, which is the financial holding company and MUFG Union Bank, is in New York City. The main banking office of MUFG Union Bank is in San Francisco, California.
1 Exchange rate of 1 USD=¥120.6 (JPY) as of December 30, 2015