Understanding the planning needs of women by listening to their stories
by Dawn Doebler, MBA, CPA, CFP, CDFAMs. Doebler serves as a Senior Wealth Advisor and Director of Education for Bridgewater. In that role she draws on her MBA, CPA, Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®) credentials and more than 25 years of experience to inform and educate clients. Women appreciate her guidance and rely on her expertise especially during difficult life transitions, like a divorce, and the sometimes challenging family dynamics that come into play when managing their wealth. For more information, please visit www.bridgewaterwealth.com.
Emily is a soon-to-be-divorced mom of three children. Her sister, Claire is a perpetually single, high-powered attorney.
Their oldest sister, Sarah is just about to become an empty-nester and is considering a new career now that she is turning 50.
Their mother, Barbara, is enjoying her time with her husband after caring for her aging mother for many years.
These are the women of the “Bridges” family, a family we created to emphasize the many financial issues women face during the ages and stages of their lives. And it is their stories that inspired our Pearls of Wealth & Wisdom at Bridgewater Wealth.
In response to a growing number of our female clients, we launched Her Wealth, a women’s financial initiative. The vision of Her Wealth is to inspire women to become more confident in the stewardship of their financial lives and their families’ wealth.
Planning: A Mundane Task
Let’s be honest, financial planning concepts don’t read like Fifty Shades of Gray. Most are a list of dull have-tos strung to the end of a mile-long to-do list. We created the women of the Bridges family so that women of all ages and circumstances could “see themselves” in their situations and identify with them. Our hope is to transform the planning to-do list into an engine of financial empowerment.
Centered around the story of the Bridges family, Pearls of Wealth & Wisdom illustrates that each woman’s life arises from a unique combination of shaping experiences. As in a fine strand of pearls, every woman has her own story of creation and an individual way in which she assembles the many facets of her life.
Pearls of Wealth & Wisdom or POWW are nuggets of information—universal financial planning truths—we developed that women can apply to their own situations. POWW provides ideas, advice and resources to boost their confidence and empower them to make sound financial decisions regardless of their circumstances.
The Basic Strand
Like a beautiful strand of pearls, every woman’s financial plan begins with a basic strand—setting goals and budgeting, learning to save and invest, tax and insurance planning, retirement and estate planning—these are the individual pearls that make up the strand. Strung properly, they have the power to create a lasting legacy of wealth and financial wisdom that any woman can pass down to her children and grandchildren.
Every Pearl is Unique
While the basic elements may be similar, each woman has the opportunity to establish their values and goals and use these as the guiding principles for all of their financial decision making. Emily, Claire, Sarah and their mother, Barbara, represent different women in different circumstances and they all have different financial planning needs. Our Pearls of Wealth and Wisdom appeals to each one where they are in their lives. Here are a few examples of how we applied POWW to each of the Bridges’ women.
Emily, a busy mom of two, has a demanding career. She’s in the process of getting a divorce from her husband of 21 years. As you’d expect, the biggest strain in her life is the financial unknowns she faces because of the divorce. She also shares planning issues common with other women at this stage of life, such as financing a residence, saving for retirement, and funding college while trying to lead a balanced lifestyle. Emily wants to know how she can still reach her goals while being reduced to only one income.
POWW: Protect your future wealth
For newly single mom, Emily, managing her risk is critical. As the primary breadwinner, she should consider putting a safety net in place to help manage the unknown. Like many single mothers, reviewing their life, health, and disability insurance coverage can bring comfort knowing that they are able to transfer some of the risk they take on as a single parent to an insurance company.
In sharp contrast, Emily’s sister Claire, also in her 40s, has never been married. She makes a good living in a career she loves and enjoys spending her money freely to support numerous charitable causes. She also enjoys spending time with her nieces and nephews and hopes to remain generous in supporting them, especially as her sister navigates the transition back to single life.
With no future plan to have children, Claire wonders what would happen to her assets if she died. She’s just never found the time to write a will. At this stage she’s more focused on charitable planning than fine tuning savings or planning for a retirement that she expects lies 30 years into the future.
POWW: Be the author of your own legacy
Claire is among the ranks of half of all American adults who don’t have a will. Without it, she leaves the decisions of who will get her money when she passes on to the courts. By having a will and creating trusts for her loved ones and the charities she supports, she will assure that her money goes to support the lasting legacy she envisions.
POWW: Choose your personal representative carefully
One of Claire’s chief financial concerns is how to prepare for old age with no family unit in place. In the event that something should happen medically to Claire, she will need to appoint an advocate and spokesperson to make these decisions for her as there is no obvious person to step into that role. She should put in place several estate planning documents—Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, and Advanced Directive. These are as important as having a will.
POWW: Fund the future of future generations
Claire wants to make a financial contribution to her nieces and nephews, and funding 529 college savings plans will certainly be a big financial help to them. Since she is not a parent, the benefit is that her contribution may not affect financial aid decisions as much as parent-made contributions.
The oldest sister, Sarah, is 50 and is about to become an empty nester. Her job is stable, but she wonders if there is something more fulfilling that she can do with her life at this point. Her husband’s company is downsizing and she is worried that he may be out of a job in the next year or two.
POWW: It’s all about the plan, baby!
At this stage of life, Sarah should access whether she is on track to live the life she envisions for her future. By this age a woman (and/or her spouse) may have been saving and investing for years, but the burning question for many is, “Have I saved enough?” The answer is more complicated than the question, making it critical for Sarah to review her investment strategy, update her estate plan, and outline a plan for addressing medical and long-term care insurance as retirement approaches.
Our mom, Barbara, and her husband, Phil, had to step in and make decisions for her mother whose health had been declining for a number of years. Most of the burden of care fell on them which made Barbara wary of imposing the same kind of responsibility on her girls.
POWW: Prepare like you will live to 100
Barbara and Phil are in their 70s. They purchased long-term care insurance when they were in their 50s to take care of potential medical needs if the time came when they could not care for themselves. They review their Medicare options every few years to make sure that their policy meets their needs and budget, especially as medical expenses rise each year.
These are just a few of our Pearls of Wealth & Wisdom that our initiative, Her Wealth, plans to showcase over time. More importantly, our mission is to create a community where women are empowered with financial knowledge and nurtured through open and authentic communication to take control of their financial lives. ◊
Bridgewater Wealth & Financial Management, LLC provides comprehensive, customized wealth management, tax advisory services and financial management services to high-net worth individuals, organizations and institutions in the Washington, DC area and across the U.S.