I have had the good fortune of helping hundreds of women make sound financial decisions over the past 20 years. Many are happily married, others divorced or widowed, while others choose to be single. From all of these experiences helping women navigate life’s joys and challenges, I have learned every Financially Responsible Woman (FRW) follows these five key strategies:
- She Minimizes Her Tax Bill – A FRW structures her portfolio in the most tax-friendly way possible, understanding that it is important to carefully choose which types of investments to own in an IRA and retirement plans vs. yearly taxable investments when they are owned individually, by her trust, or jointly. She has considered whether a Roth IRA makes sense for her and looks for opportunities to make the most of down markets by “harvesting” tax losses without changing her investment strategy. She is strategic in making charitable contributions to insure she maximizes the tax benefits while supporting her most passionate causes.
- She Invests with Wisdom – A FRW understands basic financial terms, especially the power of compounding – both how earned interest grows and how inflation eats away purchasing power. She diversifies her portfolio with an allocation that is appropriate for her goals and risk tolerance, and is disciplined about rebalancing when stocks get too high or too low. She does not let fear take over in bad markets or allow greed to sway decisions in bull markets – crucial to a successful long-term investment strategy.
- She Has Courage to Talk about Money – A FRW does not back away from important – although sometimes daunting – conversations about money. By initiating thoughtful and balanced discussions, she negotiates what she is worth at the office and creates a financially responsible family at home. She and her significant other share financial priorities, and go a step further by imparting financial independence to their children.
- She Funds Her Bucket List – A FRW assesses where she is today, then quantifies and prioritizes specific financial goals in line with her unique values and follows through by funding them. She knows what she wants – and what she does not. She asks herself: What do I want to achieve? What am I missing? What matters most to me? What if things go well? What if things go badly?
- She Has a Plan B – A FRW has worked with an attorney to draft estate-planning documents such as a will, trust, and powers of attorney in case of death or disability. She manages risk through appropriate insurance for her and her family, understanding the tragic odds that she is more likely to become disabled than die before retirement age and that the average age of a widow is 56. She thinks about potential long-term care expenses for elderly parents and herself. She keeps inherited assets or those earned before a marriage separate, fully aware that 41% of first marriages fail, 60% of second do, and 73% of third will.
A Financially Responsible Woman insures that all of these strategies are executed with a careful balance of ownership and outsourcing – taking care of the tasks she enjoys and is comfortable with on her own, and turning to experts for the rest. She often chooses to hire an experienced financial advisor who she trusts and respects so she can ask questions, hand-off her biggest worries, and build a partnership for executing and updating her strategies as life evolves.
Heather L. Locus, CPA, CFP®, CDFA® is a BDF Owner, founder of our Women’s Service Team and leads our Divorce Practice Group. She loves solving complex problems by balancing the financial and emotional components with tax and legal issues. Heather frequently presents “The Financially Responsible Woman: Five Strategies for a Full Life” and “When I do Becomes I Don’t: Five Strategies for a Financially Responsible Divorce”. She educates parents on instilling their values and work ethic through her presentation, “Raising Financially Intelligent Children”. Heather has contributed to various publications including The Wall Street Journal, Crain’s Chicago Business, the AARP Bulletin and Divorce Magazine.
No representation is being made that any strategy shown will or is likely to achieve results similar to those shown in this presentation. BDF does not provide legal, tax, insurance, social security or accounting advice. Clients of BDF should obtain their own independent tax, insurance and legal advice based on their particular circumstances. The information herein is provided solely to educate on a variety of topics, including wealth planning, tax considerations, insurance, estate, gift and philanthropic planning.