Being single isn’t one category — it’s many different ones.
As a woman, there’s a 90% chance that you’re managing your own financial affairs now or will be at some point in the future. Whether you find the idea exciting or frightening, the likelihood of making these decisions means you’ll need to know as much as you can, not only about your day-to-day expenses but about investing. This knowledge will not only help you keep your head above water. It will also help make it possible to realize your personal financial goals.
Investing for one
There’s no one right way for a single woman to invest. That’s because single describes such a diverse range of women: those who never marry, those who divorce, and those who are widowed. It also includes those who are heads of households. Age makes a difference as well, since the length of time you have to invest for specific goals will affect the investment strategies you use.
For example, a woman in her 20s and a woman in her 60s might both be investing for retirement. The former is likely to look for investments that will grow in value, while the latter may be shifting to investments that produce income.
If you are single and have no dependents, you may not be responsible for other people’s welfare. If you don’t have to worry about providing healthcare for your parents, paying for a college education, or making sure your spouse or partner has enough money to live on after you die, you can invest for the things you value for yourself.
At the same time, you are the only one responsible for your financial security. Most women who collect Social Security based on their own earnings collect less than men and less than widows. That makes it doubly important to invest through tax-deferred or tax-free retirement accounts, including employer sponsored plans and IRAs.
If you’re a single woman with children, you are responsible for their well-being as well as your own. In fact, you may have put your own long-term goals on hold to meet your children’s needs.
No one can fault you for that. But you should also be looking for ways to invest for your future, even while your current investments are helping to pay for your children’s education. You’re likely to live a lot longer after they’re on their own.
One good way to build your assets while meeting other expenses is by putting money into a retirement plan sponsored by your employer. These plans often have the added benefit of reducing your current taxes and providing a source for loans should you need some cash in the short term.
If you suddenly find yourself single and responsible for your own finances after many years of marriage, your primary concern may well be making the money you have last as long as you’ll need it. And if you’ve never been involved in investment decisions, the responsibility may seem overwhelming.
But it doesn’t have to be, because you can get the help you need to make wise decisions. Attorneys who specialize in elder law, for example, do much of their work for women. If you don’t have a financial advisor, or are uncomfortable working with the one your spouse used, ask your lawyer about finding someone to work with. Or you can ask for advice and professional referrals from your relatives or friends who have had similar experiences
Financial emergencies happen in everybody’s life, whether you’re single or married. The real issue isn’t whether, or even when, they will happen, but how they can be resolved.
One safety net that you’ll want to create is an emergency fund, money set aside in an account you can tap easily — such as your savings or money market account (though not your checking account), or in short-term investments like certificates of deposit (CDs) or US Treasury bills.
The general rule of thumb is that you should keep three to six months’ worth of living expenses in reserve. That could help cover a period when you were unable to work because you were ill or injured, or the stretch between losing one job and finding another one. Some advisors, who recognize the consequences of keeping too much money in low-paying accounts, urge women to invest at least some of their emergency money in a balanced portfolio of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. The argument is that you can always sell the investments if you must have the cash. It is possible that you might lose some money if you need to sell on short notice, but if you don’t need to tap your savings, you’ll have the potential to earn more in the long run.
Other advisors, who are concerned that women on their own may have more difficulty getting assistance from their families or a hard time finding a new job, think that women should keep more money in emergency funds than the amount they recommend for men — perhaps as much as a year’s worth of living expenses.
In fact, having an emergency fund is so critical to your financial security that building it up is the only good reason you might have for postponing investing.
How To Start Investing On Your Own? Guide For Women by Inna Rosputnia
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