Over the years, I have encountered many women who are financially dependent upon men. They have not given attention to financial matters, especially when it comes to their retirement planning, Fortunately, my parents taught me at an early age to be responsible for my own finances. I came across the following article by Sharon ODay and, since use permission was granted, I share it below:
No, a man cannot be your retirement plan. The truth is, regardless of how great your relationship is with the man in your life, three undeniable realities make it critical that you be able to stand on your own two feet:
First, the high unemployment and under-employment rate in the United States has hit men somewhat worse than it has hit women, primarily because the hardest hit sectors in the recent crisis (manufacturing and construction) are predominantly male. Second, roughly half of marriages in the United States result in divorce. Frankly, anything above 0% is too high, because the devastation of divorce is bad enough, even without financial distress. And third, the odds of you outliving your husband are pretty high.
Whatever her age, every woman needs to take financial responsibility for herself, regardless of what she was taught, what her marital status is, or what she’s done with her finances to date. That doesn’t mean she can’t combine some elements of her finances with her significant other; instead, she should have a complete understanding of every aspect of their finances, and a sufficient portion of those finances should be solely under her control.
The Girl Scout Solution
The solution to the three concerns raised above is simple: to use the old Scout motto, we absolutely have to “Be prepared.” To mirror our mothers, it’s truly “better to be safe than sorry.” My advice to you, single or married, is to always take care of your own finances as though you had to. Combine them with your significant other where needed, but guarantee your part.
This holds true whatever your actual financial situation is and regardless of what Prince Charming myths you’re still carrying in your head, whether you’re single, divorced or widowed. If you do take financial responsibility for yourself, and Prince Charming still shows up to “save you,” fine. At least if that happens, your dialog will be a very different one – you won’t be needy. And if he doesn’t show up, you won’t have to add elderly poverty to a disappointed heart.
The second piece of advice is to start saving as early as you can, and save as much as you can. The sooner you start, the better off you’ll be because you’ll reap the benefit of compound interest (earning interest on interest). And it’s never too late to start saving. You’ll be thrilled to have whatever you do save and invest on hand to supplement the Social Security you’ll collect. Every little bit takes you that much further away from a survival existence.
If you are only waking up to this reality today, here are the steps I recommend:
First, understand what your exact financial situation is today. Figure out precisely how much you need each month to meet all your bills. Then figure out how much is coming in each month, net of taxes. If there is a shortfall, get inflow and outflow into balance by either (1) trimming your expenses, starting with the “bleeders,” which are the little expenses you don’t even feel or see, or by (2) finding a way to increase your income. Or both. Once you are in balance, push yourself a little harder to free up at least a small amount to put towards savings.
Stash those savings in a risk-free, interest-bearing account where you cannot access them easily. Although interest rates are artificially low these days, and the threat of inflation is high, anything you accumulate is more than you’d have if you spent that money on chai or dinners with friends. Caution: this is not money you’ll invest in anything that carries risk; that will come later.
You’ll be surprised to find that saving money is an empowering habit. It feeds upon itself. As small as your initial contributions might be, you will start looking for more places to save or earn once you feel the power that comes from having control over your money – and your future.
My Appeal to You
It’s so easy to keep sweeping the topic of retirement under the rug. But trust me, the earlier you pull it back out and shine a bright light on it, the better off you’ll be. It’s never too late to do something. Just be sure you’re taking care of yourself.
Women tend to be nurturers and caretakers. Recognize that you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself. Become a student of your own financial health, as much as you are of your physical health. Either one, without the other, will not portend aging happily and gracefully.
So start today. If you’re uncomfortable dealing with your own money, find someone to demystify it for you. But start!
This article is reprinted with permission by ShowcasingWomen.com, the Premier Resource For 30+ Million Women Entrepreneurs. Visit them for free instant access to their Success Tools.