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3 Ways Women Can Improve Their Finances Now and for the Future

Having a plan can make a massive difference in how your family weathers challenges and builds on successes.

While you are laser focused on building a business from the ground up or advancing your career, have you given much thought to your personal financial future? Not just household budgeting and spending—we're talking about building an emergency fund and financial stability in retirement.

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If the answer is no, then you're not alone. One recent survey found that only about a third of Americans have a written-out financial plan1. That's not a lot.

Between earning obstacles like the gender pay gap and mothers juggling family caregiving responsibilities and work, women need to have a financial plan and start saving early. "Timing is especially important for women—if you're earning less, you have less to save," says Heather Osborn, a Financial Planning Manager with Baird Private Wealth Management, a division of Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated. "The power of compounding can help a woman start to catch up, but she must start saving as early as she can."

Here, Osborn shares three tips for how women can improve their finances now and for the future.

1. Adjust to account for the wage gap.

Despite strides women have made in the workplace, women earned 84 percent of what men earned in 2020, a recent report says.2 Over the course of a career, that adds up to a significant shortfall in earnings for women.

"Women live longer, which means we'll need more funding to sustain us than our male peers will," Osborn says. "Fewer resources mean less access to quality healthcare, less ability to help children and grandchildren pay for education, and a higher likelihood of slipping into poverty."

First, women should continue to advocate for themselves and their salaries, Osborn recommends. "Some women may be too modest in assessing their own worth, so it's important to get input from colleagues, friends, and mentors who can help us see ourselves and our contributions in a clear light. Normalizing talking about compensation among peers can also shed light on discrepancies and hopefully level the playing field."

Image Credit: fizkes | Shutterstock

Regardless of how well women are being compensated, they should begin saving and investing that money sooner, even in smaller amounts. "Mid-career women who have not made a habit of saving yet shouldn't read this and be discouraged though," Osborn says. "The next-best time to start saving is today."

2. Have a plan for aging parents and close relatives.

Even if your parents are reluctant to talk about their finances, Osborn suggests starting the conversation early. The longer you wait, the greater the risk of finding yourselves without a plan before your loved ones face mental decline, or worse.

"Statistics show that most caregivers are female," Osborn says. "If you stop to think about your extended family and community, most of us will see a pattern start to emerge. The numbers paint the picture, but it feels true on an anecdotal level, too."

Get a clear idea about how much your parents have planned so far, if at all, and work with them from there, Osborn recommends. She suggests asking parents critical questions such as:

  • What plan do you have in case of a long-term care event?
  • Who will take care of you?
  • What type of care will you need?
  • How will this be funded?

"In my own family, I've seen the full spectrum of preparedness and willingness to plan," Osborn says. "There should be dialogue across family units that address what I refer to as the "good days, bad days, and beyond days.'"

3. Take control and plan for the unexpected.

Life happens. People get married, have kids, lose jobs, and relocate, just to name a few circumstances. Osborn advises that women consider their current financial state and whether they would be prepared if a disruptive, life-changing event happens. Do you have enough savings to sustain you through six to 12 months or more of fixed expenses?

You'll also want to consider longer-term needs, preferences, and desires. "Does she have children, and does she want to fund their college," Osborn asks. "How does she see herself in retirement? Where would she like to retire? What will she be doing? What are the fundamental things she wants for herself, that will contribute to her happiness in later years?"

Image Credit: Gorodenkoff | Shutterstock

From there, working with a financial advisor can help make certain that you have the money you need, whenever you need it. "Not only are they experienced, trained, and equipped to help us plan, they also can lend a cool-headed perspective from outside the family unit," Osborn says. "Their guidance, counsel, and expertise can be invaluable when life takes sudden twists and turns."

That's where Baird Private Wealth Management comes in. Baird advisors offer a full suite of planning capabilities and lead with an approach that puts the client's goals at the center of their delivery.

"Financial planning is so much more than spreadsheets, charts, and financial vehicles," Osborn says. "It all begins with real conversation—listening, sharing, and connecting. No matter who you are, you can count on having "the good days, the bad days, and the beyond days'—and having a plan can make a huge difference in how your family weathers challenges and builds on successes."

Click here to find out how Baird Private Wealth Management can help you improve your finances now and for the future.

1 Schwab Modern Wealth Survey, 2021
2 Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers

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