Caregiver role: When the family needs a caregiver, it is more likely that a woman will take on this role, reducing their income (Photograph by Manuel Alvarez/Pixabay)
This is the first in a series of excerpts from a financial primer written by the author for modern women and their future financial security, which will be published in late winter 2022.
The last few weeks of significant changes in federal and state courts in the United States will affect women everywhere in powerful ways, regardless of their personal views.
These statements in the law can also generate important introspection about where we are now as women, where we will be, and what our future financial security will look like.
Regardless of this controversial news, statistics on women’s financial lives, derived from irrefutable data spanning generations, not influenced by personal biases of any kind but by the reality of real life, have done little to change the hurdles to achieve this security.
A few statistics among many others:
• Pay scale: Averaging full-time and part-time wages earned by women in 2021, white women earned an average of 73 cents, black women 64 cents, and Latina/Native Americans only 57 cents per dollar – per relation to men. The pandemic has exacerbated these findings (US National Women’s Law Center).
• Pensions: Women are more at risk of poverty in retirement due to lower paid jobs, intermittent carer demands, less money contributed, leaving them with less to live on. A March 2020 EU and OECD study noted a large pension gap between men and women – the gender gap was 25% lower for accrued pensions, while in the States In the United States, there was a significantly higher disadvantage at 34% less, said Margaret Franklin, president and chief executive officer responsible for the CFA Institute.
• Divorce Devastation
• Gender discrimination: less money, fewer opportunities, less advancement
• Elder care
• Legal rights
• Access to health care
• Survival after separation
• Relational differences in money management
• Homogenization pressure
• Constraints of the single head of household
• Female longevity (and the most impactful of all).
Readers (and podcast listeners), statistics and numerical facts are impersonal, harder to read or identify. Personal stories, however, can provide insight into real life.
Today we highlight three financial stories; these women’s stories are the culmination of patterns of financial behavior observed during my 35 years of professional international financial planning in the United States and Bermuda, as well as case studies reported by financial peer groups.
Note that all personal information is always kept confidential, completely anonymous and not identifiable to any specific person, gender, situation or country.
A family member needs long-term health care. There is little or no community support available. She decides to quit her job to take care of the parent who cared for her, an admirable response. It is a long illness that exhausts his savings. Unfortunately, her relative lost the battle but although in mourning, she feels at peace with her choice.
Reality sets in as she, now 55, re-enters the workforce needing new skills and credentials. She is finally content with a position much less advantageous than her previous career.
According to Caregiving.com, in 2022, the majority of family caregivers are still women. Their loss of wages – due to caregiving – makes women carers two and a half times more likely to experience poverty later in life. More on this.
Style versus safety
She earns a lot of money after a superb education. Life is Beautiful. Every week, a night out, a complete new look, new accessories (the collection of designer bags and shoes is growing like crazy), packed lunches/dinners, regular spa treatments, club memberships. Now she’s buying a jazzed-up car with her significant other who has the same lifestyle. The credit card bill is high, but don’t worry, she still pays it every month.
Rumors circulated. Downsizing of the company. Possible disaster approaching after a review of his negative financial net worth, but there is still some time!
This is not a derogatory commentary on a way of life. Everyone has the individual right to choose how to manage their finances.
But one essential element was missing: contingency planning!
Final result. Ruthless saving is launched: immediate deleveraging takes place, selling all superfluous items: bags, shoes, expensive car, cheaper rental unit, canceling club, spa, etc. lunch/dinner from home.
Now laid off for a year, but a new position is in sight. A tough lesson, but positive financial controls are now in place, savings have increased and once rehired the first investments in asset appreciation will begin.
Divorce after sharing a business
They developed the business idea together, partners in married life and in business, striving for the launch and then growing with hard and persistent work.
Days and weeks fade with work and caring for children who use drugs.
Business cash flows have always been tight. So, in the interest of saving as much as possible, she did not take a salary. The years passed, the company was successful, it was then incorporated with its partner as the sole shareholder. Somehow the payless arrangement continued, which would be deeply regretted.
In their early 60s, as they began to plan for retirement, his retirement plan was not his. When they divorced, she had no right to his pension, no pension of her own and little savings to her name. Additionally, aggressive court petitions denied him a percentage of the company’s assets.
End result: early 60s, few marketable skills, no pension, insufficient savings to secure a bleak retirement future that could last another 30 years.
Love is no protection against the absence of legal contracts. It is more important than ever that women have a good understanding of finance and financial management, law and contracts, economics, health and personal branding.
Learning about financial literacy can help tremendously.
Community and government can increase subsidization of education support.
Life happens. Ultimately, each individual – this applies especially to women – must be responsible and supported to achieve their own financial security.
Stay tuned for monthly articles on this topic, as well as future webinars, interviews, and financial literacy training.
Readers, if you would like to share a situation of personal financial challenge with Moneywise – understanding that all information is completely confidential – while narratives are always disguised to protect identity. Please email me at [email protected]
• Martha Harris Myron is from Bermuda, author of the blog Bermy Island Brilliance – Illuminating All Things Financial Bermuda and The Dawn of New Beginnings: Bermuda’s First Financial Literacy Primer. Contact [email protected]