Nine out of 10 U.S. women will be responsible for their finances at some point in their lives.
Widowhood and divorce are the two most common ways for women to be on track for eventual promotion to being their own chief financial officer, whether or not they actually want the job. The good news? Many women tend to underestimate their strengths and overlook their resources, according to the 2015 Fidelity Investment Money Fit Women Survey. So if you start now, you can prepare yourself to survive and thrive during your retirement years.
Women overlook their strengths
According to one recent survey, women tend to save a greater share of their income than men. And more than one study shows that women outperform men as investors, since the former tend to trade less and take fewer risks. Despite those attributes, women tend to be less confident than men about investing.
Women’s other financial strengths, as identified by the Fidelity survey, include these:
- 72 percent are confident they can manage and balance the family budget, a skill that will be very important when they reach retirement and need to live on less income.
- 81 percent have become more involved with managing their finances in the past five years.
- 60 percent think more about tomorrow than today when it comes to spending and saving.
Despite these strengths, many women still lack confidence in planning and saving for retirement. Only about 37 percent are confident they can plan for their retirement financial needs, while just over one-fourth are confident they can select the correct financial investments.
The good news is that being aware of your lack of confidence can turn into a strength if it motivates you to take steps to inform yourself about investing and saving. That’s because it turns out that confidence about savings and investing is subject to the Goldilocks principle: Having too much or too little just isn’t good for you!
The missed opportunity
Women cite three reasons for lacking confidence in their own financial planning: not doing the proper research (37 percent), not knowing who to talk with (36 percent) and not having enough time (25 percent). Of the first two of these reasons, almost two out of three women can get guidance about saving and investing in the workplace, yet they aren’t taking advantage of this help.
To help you find time to learn about saving and investing, there’s one existing resource that’s commonly overlooked: Many employers offer investment workshops or webinars during work hours, typically delivered by your 401(k) plan administrator, so you can squeeze valuable CFO financial training into your busy day. Better still, why not enlist one of your work friends to sign up with you? Managing your finances is easier if you have close friends you can share insights and ideas with.
And even if on-site financial training isn’t offered by your employer, consider that the average American watches about three hours of television per day. You can free up some valuable training time by ditching your least favorite TV show for awhile and spending that time studying saving and investing methods.
Where do you start?
Managing your daily finances so you spend less than you make is the most important financial decision you can make right now. Almost three-quarters of women are confident that they’re already adhering to this key principle. So once you have your budget under control, turn your attention to important long-term goals, such as deciding how much of your paycheck to save for retirement. While some people get intimidated by this decision, thinking they need to spend time with complicated retirement calculators or hire a financial advisor, there are simpler ways to attain this information.
For instance, you can start by taking advantage of the guidelines prepared by the Boston College Center for Retirement Research. The center’s calculations provide suggestions for how much to save, given your current age and when you want to retire. When you compare how you’re doing with these guidelines, don’t forget to include matching contributions from your employer.
Deciding how to invest your savings is the next important long-term financial task. Most 401(k) plans offer target date or balanced funds, and these are very good options to use if you’re a beginning investor. You can choose these investments while you learn more about investing; at some point, you may gain the confidence to make your own investing decisions.
You’ve been warned: At some point in your life, you’ll most likely be your own CFO. Start your training now!