Steps towards financial empowerment
Asked about their biggest financial regret, a sizable portion of women participating in a recent study1 said they didn’t invest enough. The women also reported that they wished they’d chosen a career with higher pay, not taken on as much credit card debt and lived within or below their means. While these issues may be common among many women, the great news is that financial regrets, like mistakes, are correctable if not avoidable. For women, this means growing your financial knowledge base and sense of confidence to tackle your goals over the long term. Indeed, focusing on longevity – and the requisite long-term financial and wealth planning – is particularly important now that women are living much longer. In Canada, for instance, women on average live four years longer than men.2
Significantly, there is a clear trend towards financial empowerment for women in Canada. An increasing number of women are creating wealth (due to greater workforce participation as they become the leading holders of post-secondary degrees) or inheriting wealth (as they come into money from parents and/or spouses). In fact, by 2024 the privately held wealth of Canadian women is estimated to rise from $1.2 trillion to $2.7 trillion, representing 50 per cent of total private wealth in this country.
And while every woman has unique life circumstances and a different approach to money matters, there are also some common elements. For many women, money is an emotional subject closely tied to safety, security and independence. Add to this the fact that many women are currently swept up in caring for elderly parents while at the prime of their careers, managing the household and raising teenagers. This can create feelings of anxiety, loss of time and control in the “sandwich” generation of women.
“Women see money as a means to an end. And as such, they want to connect money and investing to their lives,” says Sarah Widmeyer, Richardson Wealth’s Director of Wealth Strategies. “Don’t simply tell me about the biggest pile of money I can accumulate, explain my money in terms of what it can do for me – if something happens, can I still stay in my house? Can I afford to send my kids to the universities of their choice or take in my aging mother to live with me?” Widmeyer says.
“There’s a big difference in how men and women consider themselves to be doing well financially. Men are more likely to be satisfied with seeing a healthy return on their investment portfolio, if not competitively wired to seeing how their portfolio return ranks against others, whereas women want assurance that they are on track to meet their financial goals and will have enough accumulated to last them through their declining years.”
Guidelines for each stage
Just as there are specific tasks and features associated with age-related physical health checks, here are some guidelines for each life stage to help you navigate your financial journey.
In your 20s
Milestones may include the following: Newly graduated; Entering the workforce as a permanent employee or contractor; Starting your own business or venture; Early career development.
What to consider
At this early stage of your adult life, think strategically and set goals in terms of your career and life direction. And as you focus on climbing the career ladder, build solid financial habits. Here are some of the key habits that can benefit you over the long term: For starters, become a diligent saver (the amount will depend on your income among other things); pay off student loans; and don’t overspend on entertainment and social activities.
Establish long-term, mid-term and short-term goals each year. Consider using the services of an Investment Advisor, perhaps one referred by your parents or your network. At this early stage of your financial life, you may need help prioritizing goals like eliminating debt and building an emergency fund, or advice on insurance.
This is the opposite to impulse buying and helps you consider “needs” versus “wants”, particularly for large purchases.
This works in tandem with your financial goals and plan. Once you establish goals and a concrete plan, you will be able to determine your daily, weekly or monthly budget based on your income.
Don’t rely on credit cards, particularly if you exceed your budget. They are an easy go-to but, as debt accumulates, they will undermine your savings and wealth plan in the long term.
This is the key to your financial goals. Put a certain amount of money away each month and protect your savings from regular raiding. Consider a short-term account for monthly living expenses and one or more accounts, which are more difficult to access, for longer-term savings.
At this phase, consider tenant or content insurance (also known as renter’s insurance) for emergencies, or disability insurance if you’re unable to work due to injury.
This stage kicks off when you enter the workforce and start saving for retirement. Yes, it’s never too soon to start contributing to a retirement plan. Utilize a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) and Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). Remember, the value of money compounds over the long term. It may not be possible to contribute much initially, but you will be able to work towards increasing this gradually as you earn more.
In your 30s and 40s
Milestones may include the following: Buying a house; Getting married/establishing a common-law partnership; divorce; Setting up a business or venture; Starting a family; Approaching mid-career;
What to consider
Ultimately, let your priorities guide your plan. In addition to continuing the core financial good habits from your 20s, you may need to add new options and/or review existing arrangements for this stage of life.
Depending on your employment and circumstances, your 30s and 40s are among your prime earning and accumulation (i.e. saving) years.
Plan ahead for a drop in income and the additional expense of having a baby and dependent children. MoneySense magazine estimates the cost of raising a child is CAD$13,366 per year (a total of over $240K up until the child’s 18th birthday).
Focus on diversification and a long-term horizon. Generally, during your younger years or accumulation phase, you can take advantage of greater risk and tolerate higher levels of volatility. Consult with an Investment Advisor.
Review your insurance needs once again: Life, health and critical care insurance provide a vital safety net for you and your family. Life insurance can also be used as a cost-effective strategy to build wealth because it is tax exempt, enabling investment to occur within a properly structured permanent policy.
If purchasing a property, select an option within your means and don’t overextend.
Review or create a comprehensive estate plan that includes your digital assets. Prepare a will.
In your 50s and 60s
Milestones may include the following: In most cases, this is the final career stage; retirement planning; downsizing.
What to consider
Professional life isn’t – or shouldn’t necessarily – be over for a mature woman. With your years of experience, there is no need to curtail your career ambitions if you’re so inclined. This can mean continued opportunity for saving and investment until retirement.
Begin to consider the post-retirement decumulation phase, which refers to the period in which you stop saving and start spending your nest egg. This requires careful planning and management to ensure you don’t outlive your savings (also known as longevity risk). Some planning strategies include creating a budget that estimates how much money you’ll need each year; reducing investment risk in the event of a major stock market correction or crash; reducing your costs; and maintaining a cash reserve equal to at least one full year of withdrawals.
Many women take on the responsibility of caring for aging or ill parents – a situation that can have significant financial ramifications. One of the key questions is whether you can afford to stop working or work less hours and pay for much of the additional care depending on the situation.
Think carefully about your estate plan and legacy. Preparing or updating your will and a power of attorney should be discussed with your Advisor. For couples, discuss the prospect of widowhood. Create a plan that ensures the surviving spouse will not be financially vulnerable.
Opting for a smaller property doesn’t necessarily mean trading down or eliminating all or any of the lifestyle perks that you’ve worked for – it simply means scaling down to a more manageable size. This can be a good way to free up equity for living expenses. Key considerations for a new property location include good access to transit, medical care, recreation and, if applicable, family.
Review your needs. Consider long-term care insurance or a hybrid long-term care/life insurance policy.
Whether planning for a one-time gift or leaving a family legacy, developing a long-term charitable giving strategy can be an integral part of your financial plan. In Canada, you have the option of using certain tax strategies to ensure your donations receive the optimum tax treatment.
A Richardson Wealth Investment Advisor collaborates with our in-house Tax & Estate Planning professionals to deliver customized wealth management solutions designed to address tax, estate, insurance, philanthropic and succession needs.
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1 A U.S. study by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Age Wave, March 2018.
2 In Canada, average life expectancy for males born in 2012 is 80 and for females 84, according to a report by the World Health Organization. (World Health Statistics 2014 Report).