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Challenges for Women: Strategies for Success

Kathleen Owens, Fiduciary | Financial Adviser | Certified Financial Planner candidate


In General, Compared to Men, Women:

On average, are paid less than men and have less number of years earning a paycheck.

Have less retirement savings.

Live longer and will, therefore, need greater retirement savings, and need to plan for future healthcare costs.

Often care for both children and parents.

Are more conservative investors.

Less Pay

While advances have been made in pay-equality, it is my opinion that gender-based pay discrimination is still prevalent in most all industries. The reasons why are too numerous to be covered in this article, so we will focus on what each woman can do right now to boost their earning potential.

1. Choose a degree or certificate program and a career with good earning potential.

2. Be assertive in negotiating pay, raises and going after promotions.

3. Be savvy about other earning opportunities within your industry: such as; would an advanced degree or certificate help to garner a promotion or more pay?

4. Have a solid work network and befriend headhunters so that you can be aware of what’s happening in your field.

5. Be your own boss. Business owners have the potential to be high-earners.

If you Choose to Marry

Choosing your spouse will be the most important decision you will most likely make in your lifetime, and most likely the most important financial decision you will make. Choose wisely. You and your spouse should agree on your lifestyle, child rearing (if desired), and shared responsibilities within your marriage.

A marriage is a partnership with the “partners” blending their strengths to the benefit of the marriage. For a successful marriage, each partner should feel that the work-load is shared equally and each partner is an equal in the marriage. A couple needs to be on the same page when it comes to money and finances or the marriage will suffer. Studies have shown that disagreements about finances and financial stress is a top cause for divorce.

What is most important is that each partner should be equally involved in all financial decisions and financial planning. While each partner may have different investment experience and risk tolerance, the partners should have a financial plan that considers both views, with emphasis on the previously mentioned five challenges that most women face.

Sometimes, if an agreement cannot be made on how assets are invested are money is spend, some couples have found that having separate finances and separate financial advisors is a solution to ongoing disagreements.

Planning for catastrophic events such as extended illness, job loss or death of a spouse is essential and will help you have peace of mind by avoiding unnecessary stress due to lack of planning.

Less Retirement Savings

A woman may need to save a larger percentage of her paycheck for retirement to “make-up” for the lack of equal pay. Taking time-off from work to care for children can decrease a woman’s lifetime pay, so careful negotiation with the employer may yield savings or benefits that will not impact the woman’s paycheck.

Unfortunately, some employers still view taking time-off from work to care for children as a negative. The employer thinks the woman does not take her career “seriously” if she takes time-off. This attitude can result in the woman being passed over for a raise or promotion. While it is wonderful if the husband can take time-off from work to care for children, childcare usually falls to the woman, and most women feel they should be able to care for their young children as an essential right, if they so choose.


Another challenge that women face is longevity. Women usually live longer than men, and thus need to save more for retirement and save more for potential healthcare costs. Having an ongoing relationship with a financial planner is imperative to plan for the future and to have an adequate plan in place that can be adjusted as needed.

Default Caregiver

Women are often looked to as the family caregiver and the role of caregiver to children and to aging parents most often falls to the woman. This usually occurs when the other adult siblings in the family step-back from their responsibility to care for their aging parents, thus forcing the woman (daughter, or daughter-in-law) by default, to step-forward and take on the responsibility to care for aging parents.

What ideally should happen is that all the adult children should have a proactive family meeting to come to an agreement to share the responsibility of caring for aging parents. A financial planner can facilitate such a meeting as a neutral third-party to help form a plan that all family members can agree upon. A woman should not have to forfeit a comfortable retirement by sacrificing her retirement to care for her aging parents, or in-laws.

Conservative Investor

The thought is, is that if you invest too conservatively, you may not earn enough return on your investments to meet your financial goals.

Women do have different attitudes and experiences towards investing when compared with men. Women are (on average) more prudent and careful investors. Men tend to be overconfident, whereas, women tend to be underconfident. This overall, is not a bad thing considering that women usually do not have comparable investment experience when compared to men. With careful planning and the advice of an investment adviser, women can be guided towards the proper use of taking-on more risk when appropriate to meet long-term investment goals.

A recent study of CEO’s (Chief Executive Officers) showed, that women CEOs obtained better financial results than men. Wechsler, P. (2015, March) Women-led companies perform three times better than those led by men. 1.

Though many factors may be in play to explain such results, women who obtained the role of CEO, no doubt had to be exceptional to land this coveted role and may have been just great CEO’s no matter their gender. However, this twelve-year study may point to women gaining recognition as being steady financial managers when given the chance.

Being aware of these challenges is the first step. The next step is having a meeting with a financial adviser to evaluate your situation and determine what steps can be taken to prevent or minimize these challenges.

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