During this year’s annual Women’s History Month, I was inspired to see so many women truly supporting each other across social media. There were engaging conversations about advocating for women who are facing financial challenges related to life’s transitions, overwhelming family responsibilities, earnings potential and equal pay. When I saw these discussions, I thought about how many of my fellow CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals advocate for women’s best interests every day. I reached out to some of my peers asking them the question, “How can women tell when they need a financial planner?”
Perhaps you are facing financial challenges but have never worked with a financial planner. Maybe you are asking yourself whether you need help with your finances, which could be a sign you do. CFP® professionals are qualified, experienced and skilled at working with clients and sharing financial advice during life’s many transitions. I thought it might be helpful to share 5 situations in which you should consider seeking the help of a CFP® professional.
1. Concerns About Your Financial Future
If you are feeling concerned or stressed about your financial future for any reason, including but not limited to changes in your employment, family responsibilities or housing situation, now is the time to find a CFP® professional who can help with your bigger picture. Even though clarity can be scary, not knowing causes even more stress. If you’re in the LGBTQ community or a single woman, your feelings might be intensified because of ongoing pandemic-related social isolation. Alleviating stress is very important for women’s health and working with a CFP® professional who will truly listen and hear you is one concrete step to potentially help with these feelings. You can be confident that CFP® professionals have extensive education and experience helping others with similar concerns. You do not have to go it alone.
2. Career in Transition
Many women take time off from their careers to care for children, parents and loved ones. The long-term implications for retirement planning can be serious. Many LGBTQ people have also left the workforce because of sexual discrimination and gender identity discrimination. Time away from your career has implications for your ability to save for retirement. If you’ve had earnings gaps, or you’re currently experiencing one, discuss this with a CFP® professional and decide how to stay focused on your future. Free financial planning resources are also available to help you improve your personal finances. We understand it’s been hard doing it all.
Since the pandemic, even more women have been laid off, furloughed or reduced their working hours while trying to handle all the new daily schedules and obligations of family. The LGBTQ community has been hit especially hard during the pandemic, with many people out of work as the Movement Advancement Project and the Human Rights Campaign have documented. If you’re in this position, there are steps you can take until you can reestablish yourself in your career. Your CFP® professional will be able to help you clarify your priorities, make specific recommendations and help you plan for your next steps.
3. Commitment Versus Marriage
When you’ve found that special person, you might not be immediately thinking about financial planning, but this is actually an excellent time to consider your financial journey as a couple. You may have questions around should you marry or not? Your CFP® professional can help discuss the financial implications of this personal decision and can guide you through many issues such as Social Security maximization strategies, tax implications, retirement planning and estate planning considerations.
This transition presents a financial opportunity to reset and make adjustments. Perhaps you’ll want to create a new budget that is aligned with your savings goals as a couple. And perhaps you’ll want to use this time to think about your relationship with money and decide what you’d like to change. Have a thoughtful discussion with your CFP® professional about your views on money now, and get ready to make a positive change.
4. Lost a Loved One
During this heartbreaking time of loss, you need an advocate. While you are coping with sadness and grief — perhaps while acting as the personal representative for your loved one’s estate — consider contacting professionals to help. A CFP® professional often is part of an estate planning team, with other professionals such as certified public accountants (CPAs) and estate planning attorneys. They can help you collect all the financial documents you need and organize the items necessary to complete the overwhelming tasks of estate reconciliation.
Everything could get complicated when you are in an emotional state and can’t think clearly. Reviewing Social Security and retirement benefits, dealing with insurance claims and policies, understanding where all the investment accounts are located, etc., and just trying to understand how to begin the probate process (if necessary) is daunting.
All of this takes time and typically involves extensive coordination and follow-up with financial and legal professionals. An experienced CFP® professional can help you stay organized and track important details, such as timelines for notifying Social Security, guidelines about the probate process and applying for benefits. Your CFP® professional will also help you prioritize, as some of these tasks are time sensitive, and some are not as urgent. In my experience, this level of support is so meaningful during your time of sadness. Now is the time to ask for help.
5. Inherited Money
After the death of your parents, spouse or loved one, you may have inherited money and the windfall doesn’t feel good. Working with a CFP® professional should help you get organized and consider your options during this emotional time. First, you will want to reflect and discuss your current financial situation with your CFP® professional. As difficult as this is to think about, the money you inherited might help you compensate for periods when you were not paid equally compared with men. The inheritance might also help you compensate for income gaps when you took time off to take care of others and put yourself at risk with debt.
Although progress on the Equality Act continues to keep the focus on equal pay and comprehensive protections for women, the reality in the United States is that women are paid 18% less than men on average and have 30% less money than men in savings, according to Lean In. Much like earnings gaps, this cycle of inequity has a serious impact on women’s ability to save and plan for retirement.
If you’re in this situation, your CFP® professional can step in, review your personal situation and make recommendations to help. Have an honest conversation with your CFP® professional about how you would like to honor your loved one while potentially using your inheritance to address gaps in your ability to save for retirement.
Find Your CFP® Professional Today
If any of these situations resonate, we have good news for you. You can find a CFP® professional who has experience helping women navigate similar situations. Start by asking trusted friends and family members who they would recommend. Also, LetsMakeAPlan.org is a great place to begin your online search for a CFP® professional in your community. You can evaluate the financial planner by locality, specialty and areas of focus. Dig deep into the search choices on the website. Don’t just pick the first person. Interview at least a few with the same list of questions so you can compare everyone in the same way.
Once you’ve identified a couple of potential CFP® professionals, take a look at their social media posts and review the discussions they are following. Consider these questions:
- Do they write articles that appear online?
- Are the topics of the articles issues that you are interested in?
- What messages are they sharing on their websites?
- How does the information you gathered about them make you feel?
- What organizations are they following?
- Do you fit in with their culture?
- Can you see yourself having a trusted conversation with this person?
- How are they advocating for women?
And while you can work with many people, you should work with people who you fully trust with your financial future. Once you’ve decided on a CFP® professional, don’t wait — reach out today!