Thoughtful prep can help women avoid these financial pitfalls

By Deka Wiebusch
For The Bellingham Business Journal

Women face tricky financial dilemmas throughout their lives.

These situations can change your financial future drastically if you aren’t prepared for them.

What sometimes seems like a choice you’re making for the current year or situation can soon become the path of least resistance, and suddenly turn into a 10-year decision.

Here are a few hurdles along the road to think about and hopefully help you navigate more smoothly.

Having a baby changes us in ways no one can explain until you’ve experienced it.

Even the most educated and career driven women halt their careers, when they thought nothing could stop them from climbing the corporate ladder.

Whether you choose to stay home or work, don’t take time off from contributing to your retirement account.

You will not be able to contribute to an employer retirement plan if you are no longer working, however you can still make a spousal IRA contribution.

In 2017 you are allowed to make a contribution of up to $5,500 with an additional $1,000 for savers 50 and older.

There are more rules to these contribution limits so please consult with your financial planner on your specific situation.

Or maybe you decided to stay in the work force, but need to lower your retirement contribution due to those steep childcare costs.

Be smart about the amount you lower your contribution to. Educate yourself about your company match, if there is one, and try to take advantage of the free money the company offers you.

After having a baby, your focus may switch from saving for retirement, a house, or your dream vacation to college savings.

Don’t let your retirement goals get off track because you want your child to go to college.

Of course, in an ideal world you would save for both.

But don’t reduce your retirement contribution for college savings. You and your child can apply for loans for college, however there are no loans for retirement.

I would encourage you to stay on track with your retirement savings, and try adding a monthly dollar cost average into a college savings plan.

Over the next 18 years, even a small amount will add up and your retirement plan will stay on track also.

Plan for the unthinkable.

Unfortunately, death and divorce happen and often at unexpected times.

No one likes to contemplate the unthinkable happening to their spouse or marriage. However, you’ll feel better knowing you have a plan and then can rest assured.

Some things to think about are:

  • Is my income enough to cover our expenses? If not, consider a life insurance plan to cover the shortfalls.
  • Would our health care coverage still be available? If not, this may be an area to consider what needs you would have and how to get the coverage you would need.
  • Do I have an emergency fund to cover a rainy-day event? If not slowly try to contribute to a savings account. The rule of thumb is three to six months of income.

You most likely can’t be prepare for every situation that may go awry, however having a few backup plans can help keep your finances on steady ground.

Contemplating financial planning needs can feel overwhelming, especially when paired with taking care of your family, health, career, home and much, much more.

Don’t let the excuse of being so busy taking care of everything and everyone else push your planning to the background.

Financial planning does not have to take up a lot of your time.

Sitting down with a financial professional for an hour can help you devise a plan and catapult it into action.

I encourage you to meet with a financial planner for the assurance that your goals are aligned with your actions.

Then you don’t have to think about it again until next year!

Deka Wiebusch, AIF, is a financial advisor at Skyline Advisors, a local registered investment advisor. Its office is located at 405 32nd St., Suite 201, Bellingham.

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