Why Women Should Handle Financial Planning

 

This article was originally published in Money, U.S. News.

The relationship between women and money has evolved dramatically over the last few decades, but the connection isn’t as strong as it needs to be in today’s world.

A recent poll by the wealth management division of UBS found that 85% of women manage everyday expenses, but only 23% take the lead when it comes to long-term financial planning. Even though women are more proactive with everyday household finances, it is critical that they also set themselves up for financial success in the future.

Being more engaged with and vocal about finances not only increases women’s confidence, but also empowers them to sustain control of their financial lives over the long term – which is especially important as women continue to live longer than men.

Here are four key things that women should know when it comes to making decisions about their money:

  • Longer life expectancies mean an extended retirement.
  • Women tend to be risk-averse, missing growth opportunities.
  • Women often put loved ones first.
  • Women need to find an advisor they trust.

 

Longer Life Expectancies Mean an Extended Retirement

On average, women live five years longer than men – but a longer life can mean more financial complexity. As women live longer, they may need to fund a retirement that stretches across more than 30 years.

And yet, even though they are more likely to save, women tend to fall behind on retirement savings because they are less likely to invest. On the one hand, that may be a result of spending less time in the workforce due to caretaking responsibilities for children and aging parents. On the other hand, according to CFP board ambassador Cary Carbonaro:

 

“Women like to hang on to their cash and are more conservative in their investing behaviors.” — Cary Carbonaro

 

Women Tend to Avoid Risk and Miss Growth Opportunities

Though women are less likely to invest than men, they are more likely to have a cash emergency fund. However, their emergency funds are often too large and sit in the bank without accruing any value.

When women do invest, they tend to outperform men. One key reason women outperform men is that they invest with specific goals in mind. Another reason is that men are often overconfident and make rash decisions, whereas women tend to research and take time to make investing decisions.

Working with an advisor to create a financial plan that establishes both short- and long-term investing goals at the outset provides women the opportunity to see the big picture of what they are trying to achieve. By doing so, they can make smarter, more intentional financial and investing decisions to stay on track and reach their goals.

 

Women Often Put Loved Ones First

It can be easy to deprioritize retirement savings when funding a college savings plan or caring for elderly parents feels more urgent, but women need to invest in themselves.

Women work hard for their money and should remember to “pay themselves” first. Fund a retirement plan before contributing to college savings goals and consider tapping parents’ assets for their care.

During periods outside of the workforce, prioritize setting aside funds for the future, where possible, through spousal individual retirement accounts, or even after-tax savings accounts, for example.

 

Women Need to Find an Advisor They Trust

When dealing with traditional couples, for example, it’s common that a financial advisor may assume the man takes the leading role in making decisions. Given that, it’s no surprise 80% of widows and divorcees move on to find a new advisor, according to the Spectrum Group.

In my experience as a woman and a CFP professional, women are very willing to broach the topic of money with the right person. They are more likely to engage in finance, ask questions about money management and investigate their investment options – especially when the person they are talking to is not condescending and avoids speaking in jargon.

By the end of next year, women are projected to control $72 trillion in private wealth. Without a doubt, financial conversations will occur more frequently as a result. Women’s desire for competent and ethical financial planning advice will also increase but finding a financial advisor who will listen to their concerns should be a top priority.

Here’s the bottom line: Nearly all women will become the sole financial decision maker in their household at some point in time. To help ensure women can comfortably navigate both short- and long-term financial goals – such as enjoying their retirement years without the fear of outliving their savings – they need to start saving and investing, early and often.

And they need to commit to communicating more openly about money. This can feel like a daunting process, but it’s not something women have to do on their own.

Partnering with a CFP professional is the first step in taking a more active role in financial planning. Engaging with personal finance today will help ensure women have the financial security tomorrow to enjoy each stage of their lives.

 

This article was originally published in Money, U.S. News.

Taking 5 Minutes to Set Up Autopay Can Save You Time and Money

 

This article was originally published in Acorns

 

Here’s one task that can knock a bunch of other to-dos off your list: Set up automatic bill payments and savings transfers.

Spending 5-10 minutes now to arrange those recurring transactions can be a smart financial move that helps you save more and stay on track with bills. “Creating that discipline, you won’t feel it, but it will accumulate over time and benefit you long term,” says Leslie Thompson, managing principal at Spectrum Management Group.

 

Make the most of automatic payments

From student loans and auto payments to 401(k) and 529 college savings plan contributions, there are plenty of financial transactions you can automate.

 

On the bill side, automated payments are underutilized

Sixty-one percent of people still make each payment individually, according to a 2018 report by Aite Group, based on a survey of 2,425 consumers who paid at least one bill (loans, mortgage, etc.) in the previous year. People are more inclined to set up automatic payments for some expenses than others.

 

Consider the financial advantages to doing so

For example, you could avoid fees and penalties associated with a late payment—something 46% of those making individual payments in the Aite survey had done. Some companies, including student loan servicers and cellphone providers, offer discounts for setting up automatic payments.

But automatic payments aren’t without potential risks—namely, that you’ll overdraw your checking account. After all, 4 in 5 workers are living paycheck to paycheck. That also makes it tougher to automate expenses that can fluctuate, like your cellphone bill.

 

One trick that can help is to set up automatic payments you can control

So, instead of giving your bank account details to your auto lender so it can pull payments every month, set up payments through your bank to push that money to the lender. That way, you’re less apt to be overcharged or see payments come out unexpectedly, says certified financial planner Cary Carbonaro, author of “The Money Queen’s Guide: For Women Who Want to Build Wealth and Banish Fear.”

When it comes to savings, think about that core personal finance concept:

 

“Pay yourself first.” —Cary Carbonaro

 

Given the chance to spend or save, most people will spend, she says.

Setting up automatic contributions to your workplace retirement account helps you stay on track for your goals and helps make sure you don’t miss out on any matching funds from your employer. When contributions and payments automatically come out of your account or out of your paycheck, you won’t know it’s missing, she added.

“If you set it and forget it, it will automatically be a habit,” Carbonaro says.

 

This article was originally published in Acorns

Podcast | Closing The Savings Gap

How many of you have access to 401(k)s through your jobs?

Many private sector workers do not.

Entrepreneurs and people who work at smaller companies are even less likely to have a plan, and of course retirement is never the only responsibility on our plates.

In this episode, Cary Carbonaro will help Kem, a 44-year-old married mother of a 16-year-old son who lives in Birmingham, Ala. Cary Carbonaro has more than 25 years of experience and is author of the book The Money Queen’s Guide for Women Who Want to Build Wealth and Banish Fear.

Kem, an attorney, is in the process of launching her own firm and is worried about having enough for retirement after she invests in her business. She also wants to be prepared for the cost of college for her son — and she’s still paying off some of her own student loan debt.

Listen in as Cary helps Kem navigate all of life’s competing financial priorities, including budgeting, and learns to put herself first.

 

How to know whether you should buy a car or lease it instead

 

This article was originally published in Mic.

 

Whether you’re looking to buy or rent a car, it’s never been easier to look into car ownership. According to new research CDK Global the automotive retail industry is continuously innovating on ways to facilitate online car shopping, which will ultimately cut-down on in-store time.

And that’s when you need to ask the age-old questions: purchase a car in full, or pay recurring monthly fees for a set number of years?

Here’s what to consider before making that choice.

 

Leasing

Leasing or financing a car means you are effectively renting in the same way you would an apartment. According to Cary Carbonaro, managing director at United Capital and author of The Money Queen’s Guide: For Women Who Want to Build Wealth and Banish Fear:

 

“Leasing means you always have a new car and maintenance is almost always included and under warranty.” — Cary Carbonaro

 

Again, adhering to a lease is like renting an apartment, except instead of a superintendent or landlord, you have a dealership interesting in keeping your car up to date on repairs.

The cost of your monthly payment will of course depend on the make and model of the car (A Mercedes-Benz G-Class SUV will cost a lot more than a Mazda 3 sedan, for example). How the payments are calculated is by projecting the residual cost of the car after your term, and having you cover the cost of that depreciation in value in installments over the course of your term. For example, if the car worth $50,000 at the beginning and is expected to be worth $30,000 after three years, your monthly car payment will come out to around $555 (that’s the $20,000 difference divided into 36 months), minus the cost of any down payment you choose to pay upfront.

Your contract will dictate what type of wear and tear is acceptable at the end of your term, according to Jason Hargraves, managing editor at insuranceQuotes but in general, you’ll have to keep the car in good condition without any noticeable body damage.

If you’re the type to take several road trips per year, leasing might not be the best option for you. What can affect the cost of your monthly payment is the miles you expect to drive per year, with more miles increasing its cost. While the average mileage cap on most leases comes out to 12,000 miles, according to Edmunds, if you know you’ll be going over, it is far cheaper to pay for extra miles upfront than to cover excess mileage costs after the damage has been done.

 

Buy

You have several options when it comes to buying. You can buy a brand-new car with zero mileage on it, a used car (the price will often depend on mileage), or your own leased car for a considerably lower fee after the term of your lease has ended.

Given that the value of a car declines rapidly the second it leaves the car dealership parking lot, it might be worth it to consider a demo car, which can cost several hundreds of dollars less than its brand-new counterpart. These cars are effectively “brand new” as well, but have a few hundred miles on them from test-drives. Think of them as the display models at a shoe store — they look and feel brand new under the supervision and maintenance of staff, but with relatively undetectable wear and tear.

Buying a car might be right for you if you plan to own it indefinitely as opposed to a set term. However, note that you might need to take out a loan to purchase a car in full, and paying interest on those payments can add up.

 

Insurance needs

Auto insurance is a crucial factor to consider when calculating the total cost of the car. According to Hargraves, if you lease your car, you will need collision, comprehensive and liability insurance. If you buy your car outright then you will only need to have liability insurance. “If you do file [a] claim when leasing or financing, you can expect any payouts to include the name of the lien holders or leasing company,” he said. Compare plan prices from reputable car insurance companies like Progressive, Geico, and Allstate.

One difference to note is that car leasers might be required to pay for gap insurance, which assists with car payments in the event you total your car, said Hargraves. Gap insurance might be built-in to your monthly car payments, so make sure it’s not an extraneous cost, or negotiate to include it in your monthly rate for a lower cost.

 

This article was originally published in Mic.

Can you afford to get a pet?

 

This article was originally published in Mic.

 

Many pet owners will tell you that bringing a furry friend into their life feels as significant as gaining another member of the family. And like humans, it costs money to raise a pet. A lot of it.

According to the ASPCA, a medium-sized dog costs an average of $565 up front for one-time purchases like collars and training classes, with another $894 a year after that for ongoing medical costs and food. A cat costs approximately $365 upfront, plus $809 a year after that. But if you can swing the costs, there’s lots to gain by adopting a pet.

 

“You are responsible for a living being,” said Cary Carbonaro, managing director at United Capital and author of The Money Queen’s Guide: For Women Who Want to Build Wealth and Manage Fear. “Feeding and caring comes with a price tag and pays you back in love.”

 

Here’s how to make room in your budget — and your home — for a new pet.

 

Adopt vs. buy

Adopting a pet isn’t only a more ethical option, but more cost-effective. If you’re adopting through a certified rescue organization like the Animal Humane Society, you’ll pay a one-time adoption fee, which includes vaccinations, de-worming, tests for infectious diseases and spay and neuter procedures. According to BankRate, adoption fees range from $50 to $150, while purchasing fees from a breeder or pet store range from $700 to $2,000. Though certain medical procedures are included in these fees, many breeders tack on extra charges to turn a profit.

 

Schedule regular check-ups

For standard check-ups, avoid emergency vet hospitals or specialists, since their equipment — and thus services — can be significantly more expensive, according to Lauren Abrams, veterinary assistant and animal rescue advocate at SPCA. Make room in your budget for at least one check-up per year to catch any conditions before they become too advanced or costly to treat.

 

Add necessities into your budget

Factor your new pet’s food and medication into your monthly budget. According to the ASCPA, the average monthly cost of premium food is $27 a month for dogs and $19 for cats. To help ensure you don’t go over your monthly limit, deduct your pet’s necessities from your grocery budget — and consider switching from brand name to generic brand foods, and purchasing produce on sale.

 

Choose a low-maintenance breed

It’s no secret that a goldfish will cost a lot less in the upkeep department than a poodle. But opting for certain breeds within a given species can also help you save, according to Abrams. “Mixed breeds often avoid the medical anomalies that come with pure breed animals. A medium-sized mutt may be the best choice in order to avoid the orthopedic problems that come with larger sized dogs and the back and teeth problems that come with small dogs, however all dogs can have health issues and it is often not breed-specific,” she said.

 

Allocate funds wisely

Fewer things are more adorable than a dog in a raincoat. While Carbonaro said that it’s typically those with plenty of discretionary income who purchase designer clothes for their pets, if you’re going to invest in your pet, do so in a way that more directly contributes to its well-being. Carbonaro said to save for boarding or pet sitting if you travel often. And you can cut down on room and board costs by enlisting a few trusted friends to watch your pet while you’re away, Abrams suggested.

While necessary for their development and emotional well-being, the cost of toys can quickly add up. “I often refer people to the sale sections at many stores and even on Amazon,” said Abrams. “Each year, rescue groups often do conferences or garage sales where they sell lightly used pet gear and this can save a lot of money.”

For their personal hygiene, have a groomer show you how to cut their nails so you can do it yourself going forward.

 

Get insured

Pet insurance is one of those things you never want to have to use, but always want to have on hand in case of emergencies. “Vet bills are very expensive and it’s difficult to predict if the pet gets sick,” said Carbonaro.

 

Prices range depending on your location, pet breed and coverage plan, and while it might cost you a few hundred bucks up front, it might end up saving you money — as well as your pet’s life — down the line. Popular pet insurance companies include Figo, Trupanion and Healthy Paws, and Abrams said you can get them directly through your vet.

 

Keep them healthy

You obviously want to keep your pet as healthy as possible, both for their well-being and your wallet. One simple way to decrease your number of vet visits each year is to purchase premium, high-quality pet food from the start, according to Abrams. You’ll be paying more up front, but you’ll see your return on investment when your cats aren’t developing urinary tract infections or your dogs aren’t developing digestive problems from poor-quality food.

 

Receive assistance

It’s not advisable to adopt a pet if you cannot afford it. But if you do run into financial issues while a pet is already in your care, you might qualify for financial assistance. The Humane Society offers a comprehensive list of organizations nationwide that providing funding for the likes of veterinary care, cancer treatment, and heart disease treatment. “Many cities have incredible low-cost vet care programs as well as food banks for pets,” said Abrams. “This is a great opportunity for pet owners who are financially limited to give their pets the best care and it takes a community to do so.”

 

Foster

Abrams said a great cost-effective way to care for animals is to foster for a shelter or rescue group, which will allow you to keep the animal in your home anywhere from two weeks to six months until they are ready for adoption. “Most rescue groups will provide foster families with food and medical care for the pet and the foster family’s only job is to give as much love as possible to this pet and to help make them more adoptable,” said Abrams. “Fostering saves lives, opens up spaces in shelters to accept more animals and best of all, it often costs the foster family a very small amount.”

Similarly, shelters are always looking for volunteers because they’re often at capacity and under-staffed. “It’s extremely rewarding and it allows you to get a lot of furry cuddles as well as enrich the environment of animals in shelters,” said Abrams. “It doesn’t cost a thing, except time.”

 

This article was originally published in Mic.

Married with Separate Finances: What Are the Benefits?

 

This article was originally published in CFP® Let’s make a plan.

 

Married couples often ask, “How should we combine our finances?” As much as they want a simple rule of thumb, there is no one-size-fits-all answer for couples – some prefer to be married with separate finances while others prefer to be married with joint finances. Each partner’s attitudes and emotional ties to money vary, and that will influence how you, as a couple, handle your finances.

If one person sees money as a fuel for happiness and one hangs onto savings as a hedge against misfortune, their clashing “money minds” can potentially cause issues within the marriage. For example, you could have one couple who maintains two separate checking accounts and spends their own money respectively. Or, you could have another couple who combines their finances so that both parties are privy to their joint financial situation.

If you’re unsure whether separating or joining your finances is the right choice for your partnership, I’ve laid out a few options to consider.

The first option you can choose is to have two separate checking accounts. With this approach, it forces both you and your partner to be responsible for your own accounts while providing a measure of financial independence for each partner. In the event of an emergency, it provides checking account diversification in case of an emergency.

However, this approach can come at the cost of financial life transparency and works better in a two-income household.

Another approach to consider is the “yours, mine and ours” approach. With this approach, each partner maintains his or her own checking account, but the two of you create a joint account for paying shared expenses, like bills.

With this choice, knowing how much to contribute to the joint account can be challenging. To make it fair for both parties, I believe it is best for both parties to chip in a percentage based on your incomes.

Let’s say you have $4,000 in joint bills, and one spouse earns $60,000 a year and the other spouse earns $40,000 a year. With my suggested breakdown, this couple would contribute a 60/40 split to the joint account, with the spouse making $60,000 contributing $2,400 and the spouse making $40,000 contributing $1,600 a month. The remaining funds would then live in each person’s separate checking account to save or spend as they wish.

In order for this approach to work, the two partners would need to agree on their big goals, like saving for retirement, saving for a house or paying down credit card debt, and how the two will contribute. I would advise that you each have your own retirement accounts since those can’t be combined, but you can be each other’s beneficiary.

While there is no single, tidy solution that works for all married partners, it is important to understand that communication, honesty and transparency are vital no matter how a couple approaches their finances. Whether you choose to be married with separate finances or joint finances, you can save yourself from headaches and arguments if your financial lives are an open book, and you respect each other’s priorities and emotional ties to money.

 

This article was originally published in CFP® Let’s make a plan.