Article In Edge Magazine

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Women today have more financial freedom than ever before yet still face economic obstacles that are distinct from men, and these challenges can become more pronounced in retirement.

On average, women live five years longer than their male counterparts, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, meaning they are more likely to be alone and financially self-reliant in their later years. Women are also more likely to earn less money and take career breaks to assume caregiver roles, says certified financial planner Jennifer Harper.

"All of these are reasons why women need to be particularly careful about their own financial planning," Harper says.

As the director of Bridge Financial Planning, Harper helps women, men and families of all ages make savvy financial decisions. She says the basic rules for managing money — live below your means, monitor your credit score, build an emergency fund — are the same for everyone early in life. However, things can change if a woman decides to scale back or stop working to raise children.

"Many people don't think to calculate the future loss of income due to Social Security income," Harper says. "That's true whether it's childcare, eldercare — there's not just a current expense, there's also future expense."

Harper says she also sees this hurt women more during divorce.

"A lot of times the financial conversations in divorce are strictly around getting an equitable distribution of assets to both spouses, and you need to be very aware of what happens to future income, as well," she says. "If they made some of those sacrifices for the family during their career, that comes back to haunt their financials later."

A 2018 study by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave found that the average retirement in the United States costs $738,000, yet only 9 percent of American women have $300,000 or more saved.

There’s always time to make progress.
— Jennifer B. Harper