GEN X Woman
Women and Retirement
Financial Toll of Separation/Divorce
Divorce and Debt
Even not considering Venus and Mars, men and women are very different... so why should their retirement needs be the same?
Did you know that according to the National Center for Research:
What does all that mean?
Women have different and more demanding needs than men when it comes to investing and retirement planning. A woman lives an average of 7-9 years longer than men, so she should be prepared to outlive her husband. The average woman retiring today at age 65 is expected to live another 25 years. Without adequate savings, she could outlive her money. Women today cannot expect Social Security and pension benefits alone will provide enough money to maintain their pre-retirement living standards. The average man retiring at age 65 collects $782 a month in Social Security benefits, compared to only $523 for the average woman.
Also, many women give up jobs in order to provide care for the family, and on average, tend to change jobs more frequently. As a result, women are less likely to be 100% vested in an employers pension plan. For every year a woman stays home caring for a child or other family member, she must work 5 extra years to recover lost income, career promotion, and pension coverage. Staying out of the work force for only seven years during a 49-year career may cut retirement benefits in half.
Based on these facts alone, women need to save more for retirement than men. A single woman earning $50,000 a year needs to have saved $55,000 in her retirement account by age 35, as opposed to a man who need only to save $16,000.
What does this mean for you?
It is more important for women to begin investing sooner than men and become as much, if not more, informed than men. This means educating yourself in understanding your alternatives, so that you can hire the best professional to help meet your needs. Exceptional advisors should have an educational process set in place that will gradually progress you to greater and greater responsibility and involvement regarding your investments and savings.
Brokers and advisors that keep you in the dark in regards to total costs, tax ramifications and risk should be avoided. You must feel a sense of trust with your broker/advisor. It is necessary to talk to their existing clients to see if they know and understand their total expenses each year and if they have been sufficiently educated on what is going on with their investments.
While there are many excellent female brokers/advisors available, do not hire another female solely because she is female. It does not always mean she will understand your situation better, therefore, do not limit yourself in selecting your broker/advisor. Other parts of this website will help you avoid costly mistakes and steer you in the right direction. Feel free to explore the rest of www.soundinvesting.org and e-mail us with any comments or questions for future articles.
Nearly everyone knows the emotional toll divorce can bring, but the financial toll can, many times, be as severe. There are ways to lessen the financial impact of divorce, please consider the following:
Keep good records - At the first thought that your marriage may be in trouble, seek a good attorney to explain your rights and answer questions toward your specific situation. Be organized when you visit your attorney with a detailed list of your assets and liabilities along with the last five years of tax returns, brokerage statements, employee benefit statements and any other financial documents.
Protect your credit - Ask your attorney how to protect yourself from damaging your credit rating by running up bills on joint accounts. Try to keep lines of communication open with your spouse while conveying any concerns to your attorney. All joint debt should be paid off, or factored in your settlement. Before the divorce is final, make sure your name is off joint property that is going to your spouse so a new mortgage does not get you into further debt.
Consider a Mediator - A mediator works with you and your spouses attorney to hammer out a property settlement. Many times a mediator can save both time and cost between the two attorneys.
Don't treat assets equally - You must look at all aspects of property when dividing it up, not just the total value. For example, if a spouse gets a $300,000 house and the other spouse gets a $300,000 settlement plan then this is not an equal property settlement. Not counting the tax ramifications of specific property is one of the major errors in divorce settlements today. In the example given, selling a primary residence usually does not incur a capital-gains tax. A retirement account (with the exception of the Roth IRA), will be fully taxed when you withdraw the money. It is not only wise to understand the tax ramifications of each property item but, also upkeep cost, income and growth prospects, etc. when dividing up property. Also, keep in mind that taxes are paid on alimony payments received (the person paying alimony gets a tax deduction), while child support is not taxed.
Two other pieces of advice to consider when it comes to retirement are assets and homes. First of all, make sure your attorney analyzes your spouses retirement statement as it is important not just to go by stated value. For example, many pension statements do not include other retirement assets such as compensation from the state that definitely should be a factor. You may lose many investment advantages with a home, as they generally do not have the flexibility, liquidity nor appreciation potential of many alternatives within IRA assets for example. So make sure your attorney has an excellent understanding of this because otherwise it may pay to hire an expert in the area.
Insurance - If you are getting back into the work force and were relying on your spouse's insurance, it is a good idea to factor in the cost of insurance in your settlement (or at least through a time period to allow you to find work).
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If you're dealing with divorce, you'd better be dealing with financial planning as well. As most married couples can tell you, there are few things that couples stress about more than money. When a pair decides to split up, money issues take on an even greater importance.
Tom and Cindy Divorce
When Tom and Cindy decided to end their marriage, they still had a substantial amount of debt. There was $8,500 outstanding on their joint credit cards, they owed $4,800 on their boat, and $48,000 on a home equity loan they used to remodel their kitchen. At the time they split, Tom agreed to take care of the home equity loan and the credit debt. Cindy kept the boat so she agreed to pay for that.
Five years after the divorce, Cindy was stunned to learn that Tom had filed for bankruptcy and she was suddenly being held accountable for the home equity loan and the credit cards $56,500!
Tom and Cindy are an ideal reminder of why it's so important for divorcing parties to close out all jointly held lines of credit. How do you do that? Simple. Cancel the jointly held card, and have the party agreeing to the payment either pay off the balance or transfer the balance to a new, individually held card. Prior to signing a settlement, you should put mortgages and loans in the name of the party that is agreeing to cover the debt.
What About Your Situation?
If you're divorcing and you hold credit cards as a couple, get rid of them. The risks for skipping this paperwork-filled step are too great; if you don't, you can be left holding the bag for an ex-spouse. It will feel anything but fair but the law says if the creditor can't collect from the ex-spouse, it can collect from you. It's important to realize that, legally, you can be held responsible, not only for the debts you accumulated together while married, but also for debts your ex runs up after the divorce if the credit card remains in both your names. It doesn't matter whether your former spouse said he or she would pay those bills.
No matter how amicable you fell your divorce will be, you really need to talk to a good divorce lawyer so you can head off future problems. You may be able to draft a divorce agreement together on your own, or with the help of a mediator, but you should also have an independent attorney, who works only for you, give it a final review to make sure you are sufficiently protected.
What to Do Down the Road
If problems do arise later, you'll need to get a copy of your consolidated credit report for the three major credit reporting bureaus to verify that the debts creditors say you owe are in fact from credit cards you and your ex had together. Make sure your former spouse didn't somehow obtain a new line of credit under you name without your permission. A consolidated credit report will cost a few dollars but it will provide vital information. You can order it from Myvesta.org, (formerly Debt Counselors of America) a non-profit, financial assistance service.
Debts aside, it's also a good idea to get the advice of your attorney, your accountant, and your Financial Advisor. Dividing up assets can be a complicated process and each of these professionals can play a key role in a difficult situation.
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While 8 in 10 Single Gen X Women Have Some Retirement Savings...
"Money management is a fundamental issue for Gen X women," Mascaskill said.
"Look at the ledger: Longer life expectancy and lower earnings than men, movement in and out of the workforce, family responsibilities, high debt accumulation. It all adds up to the fact that women must save early, invest aggressively and spend less."
While single women think about retirement -- and may even believe that they are successfully saving for it -- their desire for short-term gratification takes precedence.
For example, one half of single women surveyed said that at this point in their lives money is for spending and not saving, three out of four said it was important to look successful and 54% said they were likely to accumulate 30 pairs of shoes before accumulating $30,000 in retirement savings.
Forty-seven percent of single Gen X women have credit card debt (compared to 35% of single men). As measured by the median (or middle) survey response, the typical single Gen X woman with credit card debt has an outstanding balance of $2,300 - representing four weeks of average pre-tax income.
Partly as a result of these spending patterns, significantly more single young women (53%) say they live paycheck to paycheck than do single young men (42%).
Summers said that credit card debt is a major issue for Gen X-ers single women in particular. "Credit card debt is a 10-lb weight around the necks of many Gen X-ers,
"Financial services providers should market saving and investing with all the savvy and imagination with which they sell credit cards to young people."
Single Gen X Women say they would save more with a little guidance and encouragement. Two-thirds of Gen X single women not currently saving for retirement said learning how to better manage their debts would strongly motivate them to start saving. This is one reason soundInvesting.org was created to help both the sophisticated, as well as novice investors with objective educational information.
When it comes to saving for retirement, single women have a lengthy road ahead, as they have the least amount saved for retirement of those surveyed. The Typical Gen X single woman - as described by the median or middle response - has $4,000 in retirement savings.
Encouragingly, only 17.5% of the single women surveyed say they have no retirement assets. Of those with retirement dollars, savings accounts are the most popular option, used by 66%, followed by company pension plans (35%) and 401(k) or 403 (b) plans, 27%. Almost half of single women surveyed - 48% - say they are satisfied with the amount of money they are currently saving.
Experts say employer-sponsored retirement plans are probably the best way to engage Gen Xers in saving and investing.
"Our generation faces the longest and steepest climb to retirement - and no one faces a longer or steeper climb than single women," said Richard Thau, president of Third Millennium, the Gen X advocacy group. "These women need to start saving soon or face harsh retirement reality decades from now."
"For most of us, the first real investment decision we're asked to make is whether or not to participate in our employer-sponsored retirement plan, and, if so, how much we'll contribute," Thau said. "With only a third of Gen Xers participating in these plans, it's clear that too many of us are making the wrong choices."
Interestingly, asked to rank a series of workplace benefits, a strong employee-sponsored retirement plan was deemed the most important benefit for 40% of single Gen X women, ahead of flexible work schedules (28%), childcare or eldercare (14%), company stock or options (12%) or generous vacation time (4%).
"While it's encouraging that single young women understand the importance of a strong employer-sponsored retirement plan, for too many of them it remains a theoretical benefit," Thau said. "I think the feelings is, it's nice to know it's there if I ever need it."
"We believe that public and private sectors employers alike have a critical role to play - as well as the obligation - to actively encourage and support greater retirement plan participation by their younger employees," Thau Said.
Forty-seven percent of single Gen X women surveyed said they are "not very knowledgeable" about investing - versus 33% of single Gen X men. Forty-four percent of single young women rate their money management abilities at five or less on a ten-point scale.
Interestingly, single men and women begin saving at approximately the same median age - 22 for women and 21 for men. Unfortunately, single young women may not be investing aggressively enough. Just about the same percent of single women (35%) believe CDs or money market funds are the best way to create long-term financial security as cite stocks or stock mutual funds (37%).
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