Planning for retirement, aging, end of life care, and distribution of oneís estate is important for every individual, regardless of gender. But women face unique issues which make it essential for them to engage in estate planning now and seek out the resources they will need to overcome these challenges. These issues include:Women have longer life expectancies than men. Because women tend to live longer than men, they must prepare themselves for living alone. And they wonít be alone during one of the easier times in their lives. Most women will face life alone at a time when their world is being turned upside down.
During the years that women may begin to suffer a terminal illness or debilitating disease, living on a reduced income, needing help with activities of daily living, and making some of lifeís most complicated decisions, many of them will be alone. One of the most common planning mistakes women make is failing to prepare for being on their own.Lots of women lack experience with financial matters. Historically, men are more likely to be the decision makers on matters such as investing, mortgages, major purchases, life insurance, taxes, and business interests. For women that have left these issues to their husbands throughout the marriage, it is common to feel overwhelmed by the pressure of handling such matters alone. Some women really want someone else to make these decisions for them, whether that means turning decision making over to an adult child, sibling, or a professional. If a woman does not have someone that can help with financial decisions, she is more likely to run out of money or experience other financial consequences.
Women need more money for retirement, long term care, and unexpected medical expenses. Because women tend to live longer, their expenses in retirement are greater. This means they need more money set aside for living expenses, assisted living or nursing home care, and medical costs. If women fail to develop a strong interest in budgeting and investing, they may find themselves without enough money to live in retirement.Women face more pressure from children and other heirs. Mothers have a natural instinct to take care of their children. In these tough economic times, some mothers are being pressed to be more generous with adult children. Because women are more likely to be the surviving spouse, they are frequently left in the unenviable position of deciding how to distribute the familyís property. Women often become widowed without an estate plan in place. More frequently than men, women face substantial emotional pressures from children and other family members for loans or bequests, often to their own detriment.
Important Estate Planning Steps for Women
1. Become more involved in your finances. Women need to discipline themselves to become educated about financial matters. Because of the unique challenges they may face in their senior years, it is essential women develop a greater understanding of financial planning tools such as IRAís, long term care insurance, annuities, and life insurance. Reading books on investing and attending seminars are two great ways women can increase their knowledge.2. Find a trusted advisor before you need one. When confronted with complex planning decisions, you need to consult someone you trust that has the necessary education and expertise to properly advise you. Depending on your situation, you may need a tax advisor, financial planner, or estate planning attorney. If you have a husband or partner that usually handles the family finances, ask him to help you find an advisor you can rely upon in his absence.3. Execute a durable financial power of attorney. To fully prepare for a time when you cannot manage your finances alone, you may want to make a power of attorney. By making a durable power of attorney for finances, you can appoint an agent to act in your place if you become disabled or incapacitated. As part of the aging process, women often experience declining health and want to ensure someone else is authorized to step in if they are unable their own finances. If you have someone you trust, granting that person power of attorney may give you peace of mind.4. Learn about senior housing and consider where you will live throughout retirement. Before you can develop a plan for your future you must understand your options. Think about whether you will be able to maintain your current home in retirement if you end up alone. Will you need to downsize? Visit assisted living facilities and continuing care retirement communities to learn about alternative housing options and costs. Contact in home care providers for information about services that may help you stay in your home even if you require some assistance with activities of daily living. Talk to seniors about their own experiences. After learning more about your options, you will make more informed decisions.5. Develop strong friendships and strengthen relationships. As we age, we become more dependent on others. Whether it is facing the loss of a spouse or adjusting to a physical impairment, the support of friends and family will make a tremendous difference in your quality of life. Donít underestimate the impact grief, loneliness, and even depression may have on your life. Your relationships and involvement with other people can help combat this. For seniors living alone for the first time, being a good friend to others and staying active by volunteering can also bring new meaning and purpose to their lives.See also Estate Planning for Single Parents.
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