10 Steps for Getting the Female Breadwinner’s Finances in Order


Louisville, KY—March 29, 2016—Women are now the breadwinners in nearly one-half of American families, and are primary or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American families.[i]  “With the growing acceptance of this reality, it is tremendously important for women to get their finances in order to support their future goals for themselves and their families. Fortunately, the actions women breadwinners take now can go a long way towards setting them up for long-term financial security,” said Carla Dearing, founding CEO of SUM180, an online financial planning service created by women for women.

“The demands on female breadwinners are intense: buying homes, paying college expenses, caring for aging parents, investing for retirement. The pressure is on to plan and save to get there,” Carla continued.

Following are 10 steps Carla suggests women can take to get their finances in order and on target for the future:

  1. Have a comprehensive, up-to-date financial plan. Every woman should have a comprehensive plan based on her particular circumstances and goals. Even gathering the information for the plan pays big dividends in providing clarity of her financial picture. A good plan will make a full assessment of her financial situation, including her income and expenses, and assets and debts. It will play back her financial picture in a helpful way and identify and communicate her next steps in a clear, accessible way. For help building her plan, she should be sure to choose an unbiased financial planning service or financial adviser. Nowadays this can also be done online, which has the benefit of privacy and allowing her to explore her questions on her own before pursuing specific advice on her next steps.
  1. Deal with those nagging credit card balances. Because interest on credit card debt is usually many times more than that of other kinds of debt—and much more than what she can make consistently over time if she invests it—every penny she pays down on her credit card saves her a lot of money in the long run. Once she has the credit cards paid off, she should keep paying them off every month.
  2. Max out every type of retirement account she is eligible for. When she contributes the maximum allowable amount to all available retirement plans, her money is invested pre-tax, which means a larger chunk of money is earning interest over time.  Also, when it is time to start withdrawing money when she retires, her tax rate is likely to be lower, so she will not pay as much in taxes overall.
  3. Estimate and save for college expenses. To prepare for her children’s college education, she needs a good estimate of the typical costs of sending children to college and to adjust her savings rate accordingly. The most expensive colleges can cost as much as $50,000/year out-of-state and $25,000 in-state per student; community colleges can be as low as one quarter of these amounts. She should plan to have at least 50% of the total cost saved by the time her child enters college.
  4. Identify gaps in her retirement game plan. She should work with her advisor or take advantage of the retirement calculator tools available online to estimate what her needs will be in retirement and assess how well her current assets will support her when the time comes. (A simple rule of thumb is that she will need to cover about 80% of her pre-retirement living expenses once she retires.) Knowing what the gaps are will help her address them more effectively.
  5. Review her investments and shift her asset allocation as needed. She should focus on how much money she has saved AND how it’s invested as time goes on and expenses arise. She should take a close look at her investment/retirement portfolio and, as appropriate for her total circumstances, ensure that her asset allocation balances equities and more conservative fixed income holdings appropriately.
  6. Right size her house and mortgage. In general, real estate holdings should comprise 25-40% of her total assets, offering diversification relative to her financial assets and, ideally, a measure of inflation protection.  But just because she can have that much property, does not mean she necessarily has to, so she should assess what she needs and wants, and adjust as appropriate.  It is always a good idea to ensure that mortgages are not more than 80% of the value of the properties and all second mortgages are paid off.  She can re-leverage her property again during retirement if she needs additional income.
  7. Make sure she has enough insurance. Safeguarding her financial health for the long term means expecting the unexpected. She should review her home, health, life and auto insurance policies to make sure she has enough coverage to protect her savings and her family in case of a medical or legal emergency.
  8. Lean into her savings goals. It’s never too late to save and, chances are, she’s at or near the peak of her earning power. She should create and implement an accelerated savings plan to fatten her nest egg and pay off lingering debts.
  9. Explore long term care options. Medicare and private health insurance programs don’t pay for all of the long-term care services most people eventually need. Long-term care insurance for parents, a partner and herself, if it can be obtained, is one way to preserve assets against the costs of long-term nursing home care. It must be bought while she is healthy so it is worth exploring now. She will be paying the premiums for a longer period of time, but will have less risk of being denied coverage due to an illness that appears in her later years.

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About SUM180

SUM180 is an online financial planning service designed by women for women. With the goal of making financial planning simple and affordable for women, SUM180 provides a radical alternative to current financial advisory offerings.

Specifically, SUM180 is differentiated in the following ways:

  • SUM180 meets women where they are. SUM180 plans are personalized to help women wherever they are right now on their financial journey; whether they’re just beginning, starting over or well on their way.
  • SUM180 plans are simple. Clients need only focus on just three of their most important next steps at any given time. This approach is empowering for most, but especially for women who have been “tuned out” of their financial picture for a period of time.
  • SUM180 doesn’t try to give clients a degree in finance. SUM180 clients don’t need to become financial experts to meet their financial goals. SUM180 provides the tools they need, without overwhelming them with the details they don’t need.
  • SUM180 offers a community for users, unfiltered. SUM180’s community forum allows users to support one another in their plans.
  • SUM180 serves; never sells. Earning and keeping client trust is SUM180’s highest priority. SUM180 never makes money based on the advice provided.

Additional information about SUM180 may be found at https://sum180.com/

[i] The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything”, Center for American Progress, 2009, “Breadwinner Moms”, PewResearchCenter (2013), Ketchum/BlogHer “2014 Marketing to Moms” Study.

Robin Schoen
Robin Schoen Public Relations
215.504.2122 office
215.595.7542 mobile

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