Women need to take an active role in their financial lives


It’s very important for women, regardless of their marital status — single, divorced, widowed or married — to take a much more active role in their financial lives.

By taking a more active role, women will gain more clarity, confidence and control of their lives. To do so, women need to learn as much as possible about money.

Decades ago it was normal for a woman to be chiefly a caregiver, housekeeper and wife. Wives did all the cleaning and made sure dinner was on the table. It was the husband who would give weekly allowance to the kids. On occasion he would also give his wife some money to pay the bills. A lack of confidence about personal finance decisions has long been a source of frustration for women, hindering their ability to take greater control of family finances and, ultimately, retirement.

As young women, they still often hear the message that money is a man’s responsibility. That idea paves the way for women not to worry as much about what would happen if they needed to take on multiple caregiver roles and/or be financially independent.

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But today’s women need to be more confident about finances for a variety of reasons.

Women have spent fewer years in the workforce. Due to their role as the main caregiver, many women could work only part-time. On the days they worked, employed men worked 56 minutes more than employed women. This difference partly reflects women’s greater likelihood of working part-time. However, even among full-time workers (those usually working 35 hours or more per week), men worked longer than women — 8.4 hours, compared with 7.8 hours, respectively, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women therefore have less opportunity to save money to contribute to retirement plans, savings and investments.

More than ever, women are living longer than men. Besides personal income, women of the baby boomer generation are expected to inherit wealth from two other sources: their parents and spouses. Baby boomers are poised to inherit as much as $15 trillion over the next 20 years, according to Nielsen.

The difference in life expectancy between the sexes has narrowed since 1979, when it was 7.8 years, but it increased 0.1 years in 2015 from 2014, the first increase since 1990, according to a National Vital Statistics Reports 2015 report. Some psychologists believe men are greater risk takers and thereby increase the probability of their having a fatal accident. Women tend to care more about their health. The life expectancy for American females is about 4.9 years higher than for males.

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