Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Professional BusinessWomen of California: Afternoon Keynotes

The afternoon keynotes at the Professional BusinessWomen of California were focused on financial advice and retirement planning.

Valerie Coleman Morris started out with some sage advice: "Don't worry about what you've lost, you can't get it back."  Harsh, but true. I know I've personally spent too much time on the "what if" game for my 401K and other investments.

Ms. Morris's emphasis on this for woman is due to the fact that in general women spend 13 years less in the workplace than men do - which means we really need to start thinking about retirement sooner and more seriously, to make the most use of all of our working years.  Yes, this is SO hard to think about fresh out of college - all I can say is that I am so glad that there was an older man in my first day of orientation at work that told me retirement is sooner than I thought and talked me into starting my 401K right away.

She warned us that because women live longer, we are more likely to find ourselves with many medical needs that are not covered by any sort of insurance. More reason to save.  Also, she said the average age of widowhood was 55.5, so you won't be able to count on joint social security income or anything of that sort.

Ms. Morris also cautioned all women that were in a committed relationship to make sure that they knew where all the accounts were, where to find account numbers, and any brokerages holding any investments.

To keep our financial planning paranoia going, the next speaker was Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz - yes, the same family as the famous Charles Schwab brokerage. Ms. Schwab-Pomerantz stressed how concerned she was that financial planning of any sort was not being taught in school, and how critical this good planning is for all of us having a secure future.

Ms. Schwab-Pomerantz talked about how to keep our heads above water, even in this economy, giving these few "easy" guidelines to follow (okay, they're not easy, but they definitely have merit and I'm pretty sure she knows what she's talking about):

  • Have an emergency fund

    •  Should be a minimum of 3 months worth of expenses

  • Minimize debt

    • Should not have more than 30% of your income in debt

  • Save

    • Hard to think about while minimizing that debt and creating your emergency fund, but she said that if you think you'll need a retirement income of $50,000 a year you will need to save at least $1.25 million. Wow!

  • Have a will and a trust

    • Again, hard to think about while young and healthy, but you have no idea what will happen when to either your or your spouse.

  • Health Insurance

    • Without this, one health crisis may wipe out all of your savings and put you back to square one at any time.

Both of these women gave me a lot to think about!

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