Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Achieve your financial goals

It’s no secret that women – an important segment of the financial marketplace – face different financial realities than those of men. In fact, the vast majority of today’s women, as well as the next generation of women, will be responsible for their own and their family’s finances at some point in time.

Women & Co., a division of Citigroup, recently published a study that found 63% of women today currently serve as the “Chief Financial Officer” of their households. Impressive! Of those women, 75% believe that in the future, their daughters will be the CFO of their own households. (Can I get a collective "awww"?)

When it comes to all things women and money, Women & Co. CEO Lisa Caputo and CFA Linda Descano invariably know their stuff. According to them, in times like these it’s essential to tune out "the noise," stay focused and empower yourself with the knowledge and resources you need for long-term financial well-being:

Here are their top tips:
  • Assess your financial situation. Every woman’s financial situation is as unique as she is. It’s important to talk with someone who understands your personal situation – your goals, time frame, and risk tolerance. First, make sure you have a financial support network in place – they recommend an attorney, accountant, and a financial advisor. Unfortunately us normal people usually don't have the access or funds to hire this small army of expert financial advice. If that's the case, ask your family and friends for recommendations. Women & Co. found that 72% of women are using a financial advisor for information, guidance, or a second opinion. Remember – there is no single answer that will work for everyone. Find a plan and support network that works for you.
  • Plan for ‘time-out’ periods. Many women take time out from the workforce to care for children, aging parents, or spouses. Often, these time-outs result in reduced retirement savings and Social Security benefits. Meanwhile, with the average life expectancy for women being 80.4 years and that of men being 75.2 years, 90% of women find themselves outliving their spouse. Women can prepare for the unexpected by maintaining appropriate insurance coverage, and keeping their will, beneficiary designations, and other legal documents up to date. Start saving early, save more, and of course, plan carefully!
  • Be a role model. Women & Co.'s study found that 85% of women feel they would have been better off if they had known more about finances and investing earlier in life. Make sure your daughters and granddaughters get an early start by talking to them about money and saving now! According to the study, 94% of women today are talking to their daughters about money compared with 52% who discussed money with their own mothers. Money is the #1 topic of discussion between mothers and daughters today, more than drinking, drugs, sex, and politics. Join the conversation! 92% of today’s women believe they are positive financial role models for their own daughters. Help raise a more financially educated, powerful, confident generation of women by talking to them about money issues early on.
  • Stay informed. It's no surprise that information is an important component of financial security. As circumstances change, we need to re-educate ourselves based on whatever new realities we face, in order to make informed financial decisions. The study found that the top 3 most important resources for women are: a financial advisor, a spouse or partner, and research. Women also reported in that study that hard work and discipline are more important than education and luck when it came to financial success. Continue to seek out trusted sources of information that will provide guidance and tools, as well as the ongoing support you need to work toward your long-term financial goals.
  • Clarify your financial goals. Assess where you are now financially by reviewing your net worth, credit score and cash flow. Ask yourself, “Where do I want to be in 1 year, 5 years, or even 20 years?” (Ed note: For more on setting up your budget, read my post on it here.) Work toward your financial goals, including retirement, by reviewing your finances at least once a year and making sure your savings and investment strategies are aligned with your goals.

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