My in-laws were married for almost 30 years. During that time, they equitably divided their household responsibilities, playing to each of their strengths. My mother-in-law handled most of the cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc., while my father-in-law was in charge of house maintenance and money.
This arrangement worked well for them until my father-in-law died. My mother-in-law became a 51-year-old widow with little experience in financial matters. It made an already upsetting situation worse.
Fortunately, today’s women are far more savvy about dollars and cents than our predecessors, but Kelley Holland, founder and CEO of Own Your Destiny, a money coaching service for women, reminds us that “financial well-being can have an impact on your overall well-being.” You really can’t know too much.
If money is stressing you out, she and other experts offer some good advice.
Make a Money Plan
Married or single, everyone should have a financial plan.
Carla Dearing, founder and CEO of financial wellness service Sum180, says, “Start by making a full assessment of your financial situation, including all your assets and debts. With a clear understanding of your financial picture, you’ll be able to identify and tackle your next steps.”
Part of making a plan is determining how long you want to continue working. If your children are grown, it may be time to return to the workforce. If you’ve been working in the same career for many years and feel burned out, a career change may be in order. “Many women have ‘encore careers’ in their 50s, when they try something entirely new and find great fulfillment,” Holland says.
Have a Savings Goal
“Your 50s are a tremendously important decade for your financial health,” Dearing says. “Retirement is 10 to 20 years away, so the pressure is on to prepare, but you still have plenty of time to grow your savings and pay off lingering debts.”
As you do so, think about how you want to spend your retirement and save accordingly, Holland says. “People are not retiring and then living out their days sitting a rocking chair. They are living longer, they are healthier, and they want to do more with the latter part of their lives,” she says.
Review Your Investments
Have a financial planner look at your retirement portfolio, including investments, pensions, Social Security, and 401(k). “Preparing for retirement means reviewing not just how much money you have saved, but how it’s invested. Depending on your circumstances, you may want to start shifting your asset allocation away from equities and toward conservative, fixed-income holdings,” Dearing says.
Holland suggests that women who feel intimidated by financial matters enroll in a finance course. “Understanding the basics of investing is like understanding how to use the appliances in your kitchen. It’s a tool for living your best life,” she says.
Get Enough Insurance
“Safeguarding your financial health means expecting the unexpected. Review your home, health, life, and auto insurance policies to make sure you have enough coverage to protect your savings and your family in case of a medical or legal emergency,” Dearing says. Many people get their health coverage through their employers, so it’s important to determine how you will pay for health care when you retire.
Have Hard Conversations Before You Need To
Bad things happen: You could have a stroke or get hit by a bus. To protect yourself and your family, ask the hard questions and get the answers down in writing. Have a living will. Have a final will. Make sure your spouse or partner has the same. Keep information on all your financial accounts in one place.
Do all these things, and money will be only a thing. Not the thing.