Five financial planning tips for women by women

Women account for about 47% of the U.S. workforce1 today and are increasingly becoming the family breadwinners. In fact, the amount of women earning college degrees has surpassed that of their male counterparts.

"Over the years, female clients have taken more initiative," said Amy Brocious, partner and financial advisor at Heritage Financial Consultants, LLC. "And though they are just as involved in the financial decision making process as men, they do not seem as confident. They still tend to delegate the more complicated financial responsibilities to spouses or significant others."

Yet, financial literacy is critical for women given their longer life expectancy, combined with the fact that they earn relatively less in their jobs than their male counterparts1 and take more time away from the workforce to care for children or aging parents, leaving them with less money to save for important life goals such as retirement.

Heritage Financial Consultants, LLC, a financial planning firm located in Hunt Valley, MD, is currently home to Lincoln Financial Advisors registered representatives Kathy Armstrong, Harriet Doherty, Amy Brocious and Stacey Spedden – Brocious and Spedden are two of Heritage Financial Consultant's partners. Throughout their many years in the financial services industry, they have witnessed the evolving relationship between women and their finances and believe that all women, regardless of age or marital status, should make financial planning a priority.

Here are some of their top tips to help women get started:

Develop a roadmap

"Many women need to be prodded to evaluate whether they are being paid adequately for the risk they are taking," says Armstrong. "To determine whether your net worth is appropriate for your age, income, and personal circumstances, you need to analyze your spending and saving habits and create a plan. Having a financial roadmap that establishes where you are now – and where you want to be in 5, 10, and 20 years – helps determine what you need to do financially to get there."

Protect yourself and your family

"You don't need to be a financial expert, you just need to cover all the bases to protect yourself," urges Spedden. "Everyone, man or woman, should build an emergency fund of several months' pay, participate in their employer's retirement plan or set up an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), and make sure they have the appropriate life insurance or disability income coverage. Be sure to protect yourself and your family first."

Start early when saving for college

"Saving for their children's college education is always a major concern among women," says Doherty. "Parents should not expect to have the entire cost of four years of college saved. For the average, middle-class family, that's nearly impossible. There are grants, loans, and even scholarships that can help bridge the gap between savings and tuition. 529 savings plans are a good way to save for college and the earlier you start, the longer you have for the money to accumulate. If grandparents or other family members are able and willing to help, have them open a savings account, too!"

Find a trusted financial advisor

"Start by asking friends for referrals or visiting websites of financial associations like the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP) or Financial Planning Association (FPA)," suggests Armstrong. "Look for credentialed advisors. In order to get certified, advisors complete strenuous requirements around complex financial regulations. These well-trained advisors are great resources.

"Brocious also recommends that women trust their gut when searching for a financial advisor. "Women are relationship-driven by nature. They should find an advisor with whom they can communicate easily, and one who will take the time to listen to their goals. An advisor-client relationship is a long-term commitment that revolves around their money and their future. This person may ultimately assist them through crises, life changes, or fluctuations in the economic environment."

"There should absolutely be some sort of bond," Spedden agrees. "And you won't get that with every advisor. So, interview prospects, look at their work history, licenses, and credentials. But also consider how that person makes you feel."

Educate yourself

Many women feel intimated and afraid to ask questions," reveals Doherty. "They feel like they are the only ones who are confused by financial matters, but that is not true at all."

"Women should never completely rely on their spouses or significant others to manage their finances," Spedden recommends. "They should educate themselves about money management and investing – not only to improve the management of personal and household finances, but to empower them to choose the right financial services and products."


1 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Current Population Survey (CPS)/ Graph by the Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor.