Financial planning often lower on women’s to-do lists

Jackie Byrne Lessman: PNC Wealth Management

By Kathy Canavan

Women business owners have more reasons to up their retirement IQ than men do:

  • Their careers don’t always move in a straight line. They pretzel around maternity and caregiving.
  • They outlive men by five or six years on average, so their savings must stretch further.
  • They are more likely to assume the role of caregiver for family or friends.

Still, women often come to financial planning later in life than their male counterparts because they are too busy taking care of others, said Jackie Byrne Lessman, PNC Wealth Management’s managing director for Delaware.

“They don’t always take the time for themselves, so time passes, but, when a woman acknowledges she needs to plan for retirement, she is usually all in,” Lessman said.

Women fret about supporting their parents financially later in life, and they voice concern about eventually becoming caregivers, according to a recent PNC survey. There are no ready answers, short of a crystal ball, but planning ahead can help women dial down the anxiety.

Lessman said women, more often than men, wish that items they have accumulated pass to family, friends or charities in a meaningful manner. Their concerns become part of the estate-planning practice, with specific artwork, heirlooms, jewelry and crystal reserved for specific friends, family and charities.

Lessman, who generally puts the pieces together for individuals who have $1 million to $20 million, offered these tips for women who are ready to plan their financial futures:

  • Take control of your finances now. Set time aside for yourself and your future, and don’t delay. If you have a partner, have a conversation so you both understand your values and goals.
  • Understand the power of budgeting—what you’re making and how you’re spending it. Take a look at where you are today from an income-and-expense perspective, and see where you can take control of those expenses to maximize your resources.
  •  Do-it-yourself is good up to a point, but you’ll probably fare better when you wade into complicated tax and investment matters with a trusted financial adviser. Look for a fee-only planner to serve as a fiduciary who will represent your interests only, Lessman said.
  • Once you come up with a plan with a trusted financial adviser, trust the plan. Revisit it as you encounter illness, job loss, a career change, or a change in marital status—but trust the plan.

“The people who achieve their retirement goals believe in the strategies they’ve developed with their advisers,” Lessman said. “They adjust for the milestones that come along in life, but they believe in what they have planned, which ultimately leads them to reach their retirement goals.” 

Senate Mulls ABLE Act

The ABLE Act, cosponsored by Rep. John Carney Jr. in the House and Sen. Chris Coons in the Senate, passed the House on Dec. 3 and is currently referred to the Senate Committee on Finance, where Sen. Tom Carper is a member.

ABLE is an acronym for Achieving a Better Life Experience. The legislation would provide a tax-deferred savings vehicle for persons with disabilities. Family members, friends or persons with disabilities could place up to $500,000 of posttax money into an account, and the income generated would not be taxed.

In addition, money in an ABLE account would not count as available resources, so it would not prevent a beneficiary from receiving government benefits.

Funds can be used for education, housing, transportation, employment support, health and wellness, assistive technology, personal support, and miscellaneous expenses like legal fees and funeral or burial costs. 

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