First the good news: Women are making more money than ever. But we still face stubborn challenges in managing it effectively. Factors can include fewer working years, a narrowing but still-present pay gap, and social conditioning.
As a result, women across all ages and financial brackets — even high income earners — are worried about their financial future, says Meredith Moore, founder of Artisan Financial Strategies in Atlanta, Georgia, and a nationally recognized speaker on women’s financial planning issues. A recent study even revealed underlying retirement risks to married women in their 50s over their single counterparts.
New pandemic pressures
“The pandemic has only magnified this situation,” says Moore. “Women are opting out of the workplace due to household pressures, and they’re losing their place in the pecking order,” sacrificing both current income and lifetime earning potential.
On the flip side, “Several high-income women I know have spouses who stay at home now and they’re having a hard time wrapping their minds around it. There’s no right or wrong,” says Moore, “but these old gender paradigms are a hard thing to navigate.”
Shore up your defense
Life insurance and related products aren’t a cure-all to these complex issues, but they can serve as effective tools in stabilizing finances, offsetting risk, and planning for the future in uncertain times.
“Like any sport, you have to play offense and you have to play defense. It’s sexier to talk about offense, but it does not matter if you get hit by the proverbial bus,” says Moore. “We shouldn’t be glossing over it.”
Life insurance serves as the ultimate defense, protecting your family against the financial fallout if you were to pass away. The right amount of coverage can allow your family to stay in the home, alleviate financial stress at a difficult time, and continue with plans such as college education.
What am I overlooking?
Your risks change depending on your current life circumstances. At every stage, honest communication and a willingness to find out where the gaps are can help you create a financial future that’s more certain.
» All the single ladies
While you’re young and single, Moore advises focusing on your emergency fund and buying a small disability insurance policy that you can increase later without additional underwriting. Underwriting is the process an insurance company goes through to determine your eligibility and your rate, which is based on age, health, lifestyle and other factors.
If anyone is financially dependent on you — this could include parents — life insurance can provide for them if you were to die unexpectedly.
» Women with families
Moore says it’s important for couples to set up regular household financial meetings and become comfortable engaging with money together – even if a partner handles most financial matters. Power dynamics can change with the arrival of children. Couples who can communicate openly about money are better able to navigate these twists and turns.
When it comes to financial protection, the stakes are typically higher at this point in life: a mortgage, young kids, and fewer assets. Moore recommends additional disability insurance for any breadwinner, and life insurance is a must.
Some families should consider permanent life insurance, which, unlike term insurance, accumulates cash value that can stabilize a portfolio and be tapped for unexpected expenses* should your death benefits needs decrease. The primary purpose of any life insurance policy remains to protect family members from financial loss in the event of the policyholder’s unexpected death.
» Women over 50 and high-net-worth women
As women reach the half-century mark, they face any number of realities: empty nest freedom, caregiving obligations, a new career chapter or perhaps peak earnings. At this stage, Moore says, “I first have a conversation about managing costs for extended periods of care, if it hasn’t already been addressed. Overall, we’re taking a strong look at financial security.”
“In particular, many high-income women have an outsourcing mentality,” says Moore. “But when it comes to money, you need to know where those blind spots are.”
Two of the most common ones she sees:
- Elder care. Moore recommends having a family conversation about managing the costs of extended periods of care.
“Let’s just be honest, it’s weird to talk to our parents about money,” says Moore. “But the next generation needs to be looking at this with their parents.” High-net-worth women are especially likely to take on the cost of providing for their care.
- Longevity. Income goes down in retirement, even among high earning women who often stay active professionally.“Women live longer, and we often don’t know how to address the risk of outliving assets,” says Moore. “Stress test your retirement plan.” Permanent life insurance and annuity products can help assets last longer, and enable wealth transfer to loved ones.
*Accessing cash value will reduce the available cash surrender value and death benefit.
Meredith Moore of Artisan Financial Strategies, LLC, is a financial adviser with Eagle Strategies LLC, a Registered Investment Adviser and an Agent with New York Life Insurance Company.
Artisan Financial Strategies, LLC, is not owned or operated by Eagle Strategies LLC or its affiliates.