Whenever I spot an article giving money advice, whether it’s investing, being a smart shopper, saving for big ticket items, or retirement planning, I’m all over it. Only to walk away dissatisfied.
Most of the articles are written assuming there’s a marriage and probably a two-income household. Even articles geared towards financial planning for women still assume there’s a husband/wife/significant other in the picture. The biggest thing that sucks is that the couple usually have a combined income in the $100,000 range, if not higher. An income like that is an unreachable dream for many single women.
It’s hard finding money advice geared towards single women, because financial institutions and finance writers know that singles, especially single women, probably have less money available to invest and focus instead on bigger fish. Many financial planners work on some kind of commission, and like most businesses, they focus on finding clients with more money to spend, which means a bigger paycheck for them..
David Bach and Finish Rich
20 years ago financial expert David Bach noticed there were no financial planning books for women. So he wrote one. Smart Women Finish Rich. (Disclosure: If you click the link, you’ll be redirected to Amazon, and if you make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission for the referral.) And he’s just updated it. David Bach is the author of The Automatic Millionaire and many other Finish Rich books. He has good advice that mostly crosses over and is used in each book, but geared more toward that title audience. Even in his Smart Women Finish Rich book, David Bach doesn’t assume the woman is necessarily single. It could just be her partner has no interest in saving and investing and it all falls on her shoulders.
Do you have an hour to spend learning more about Smart Women Finish Rich? There’s a website called Smart Cookies which is all about smart money advice for women and they did a Q&A with David Bach as he was releasing the updated version of his book. I’m a huge fan of David Bach, and I highly recommend putting time aside to listen to this interview.
Singles have one income. From that income we must pay the rent or mortgage, buy groceries, maintain a car and pay our other bills and try to save money. It’s not easy to save money when we’re struggling financially. For single women, the challenges are usually tougher than those faced by a single man. Wage disparity is very much alive and well and women are lower income earners than men. Many of us have never held high paying jobs, just muddling through life in retail, food, and clerical positions. If we live in a part of the country with a high cost of living, we may feel stuck. We can’t afford to keep living where we are, and it would be easier on us financially if we moved somewhere else, but there’s no guarantee we’ll find employment in a new town with cheaper rent. Moving is tough on a single. Try packing up boxes and hefting them around. It’s scary to go somewhere new just because it’s a cheaper place to live, but some women have to do that. There are women who go through an expensive divorce, even worse if it’s a grey divorce. Many of these women might not have held a full time job during their marriage especially if they raised kids or were a caregiver to an aging parent. Job prospects are bleak once you’re over age 40 especially if you’re generally an unskilled worker. Whether a woman has never been married, is divorced, or widowed getting by on one income, or unemployed and looking for work, is challenging enough just trying to get by.
Many single women fear outliving their financial assets. If we don’t have assets or fall short on financial goals, there’s a real possibility that we’ll be struggling through our senior years.
You need a financial plan
Let’s try a little financial planning for single women. We want to be able to meet short term needs as well as be confident we can realize long term goals. You can write these down or type them in a computer.
Here are some examples why I want to succeed with a financial plan:
- I want to make sure my animals are taken care of if anything happens to me.
- I want to take a trip to Macchu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands.
- I’ll need to replace my car in a few years.
- I’d like to be a homeowner again. I’m just not sure I can afford a house in Canada.
Your plan might look differently if you have children to provide for, if you have debt, if you want to renovate your house, or you have health concerns.
Financial plans aren’t written in stone. They’re changing as your needs and circumstances change. We can’t predict what will happen that will set us back. I certainly didn’t expect to be single in my 50’s with no job, three horses and two dogs, and no financial support from a deadbeat ex.
What’s holding you back?
Let’s take a look at my adventure of a lifetime to Peru and Ecuador. What’s holding me back? They have four legs, a head, a tail, and they either bark or whinny. Most of my animals are seniors. They’ll be leaving me sooner rather than later and I’ll be in a terrible amount of grief every time it happens. My obligations and responsibility to my animals are stronger than my desire to travel. I’m also fortunate enough to be employed on a contract basis. It could end any time, but my plan is to stay employed for as long as I can which gives me an income and the means to save for my retirement.
Right now my travel plans consist of road trips where I can take my dogs, and during the months that the pasture is self sufficient for my horses to graze without additional feed. Sadly that means no winter trips to warmer climates!
Think about some things that can be on your financial plan:
- Paying off debt.
- Saving up for a down payment on a house (or a car, or a trip….)
- Save for your financial future. This could be through a company sponsored plan or investments you choose
- The age you want to retire
- How you plan to manage risk (insurance)
- Get an emergency fund in place
- Have fun. Life shouldn’t be all about work and saving.
Let’s work on a financial plan
So how about all of us get together and work on a financial plan? Here are some things to think about putting into action.
- We’ve already talked a little about goals. Write them down. That could help you reach your goals as long as you’ve kept them realistic. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d like to take a spaceship ride one day!
- How good are you at organizing your money? I’m not one for keeping a budget but I found a free Excel spreadsheet that I’ve been using mainly to track my expenses and seeing what I could cut back on. You can change the categories to suit your needs, especially since this budget refers to savings on Canadian savings programs. Click here to read the budget article https://boomerandecho.com/how-to-budget-download-free-budgeting-spreadsheet/
- If you have a balance on credit cards, a line of credit, student loan, or other debt, make a plan how you’ll pay it off.
- Decide what unnecessary expenses you can get rid of to free up some money Read 7 Easy Ways to Save at Last $2000/year for inspiration.
- If your job doesn’t provide a health and dental plan and group retirement plan, now’s the time to move up to a job that does. Have you thought about Starbucks? They offer benefits to part time staff too if you need to pick up a second job.
- Even better if you can find a job with a pension plan. Even if you have to take lower pay.
- Don’t be afraid to pay for financial help. An expert can help tailor a plan for your unique circumstances. Start small and buy a book.
More resources for financial and retirement planning for single women
Check out WISER Women and the categories on the left side of the page. Click on any of them to find lots of articles and resources to help improve your long term financial security.
Clever Girl Finance is about helping women pay off debt, save money, and build wealth. Start off reading the Clever Girl blog and if you’re interested, check out courses you can purchase. (No, I don’t receive commission on referrals.)
Retirement Planning for Singles is part sales pitch for a financial planner, but even if you’re not looking for one or you’re not a Canadian, you’ll still pick up some pointers on how to retire on your own terms.
A group of friends came together to be smart about getting their finances under control and leading better lives and called themselves the Smart Cookies. They now run a business teaching other women how to reach their money goals. If you’re not ready to spend money on their program, read their blog for inspiration. (Again, no, don’t receive commission for referrals.)
Here’s a couple of other websites to take a look at that aren’t specifically aimed at women but they’re good websites that I read frequently:
The Penny Hoarder – more money in people’s pockets
Go Banking Rates – a personal finance site to help you find ways to save and make money
Would you like to share any of your financial goals and what you’ll include on your financial plan? Leave a comment below!