Two Wise Women Share Their Planning Know-How

Marjorie Fox and Eleanor Blayney offer a personal and enlightening perspective on lifestyle and financial planning for women.

It’s very likely that many advisors — male and female — will soon have more women clients than men clients.

Not surprisingly, the aging of 73 million baby boomers will contribute to this. Baby boomers control roughly 70% of the assets held by affluent households in the U.S., says a McKinsey report. And two-thirds of those boomer assets are controlled by joint households (which McKinsey defines as those with a female present but not actively involved in financial decisions). The youngest boomers, those born in 1964, will turn 58 this year, while the oldest, born in 1946, will turn 76. In the United States, women outlive men by an average of five years, the report noted. I think you get the picture.

Yet as hard as it tries, the financial planning industry just doesn’t seem to connect well with women. It’s often women advisors, who are in the minority, who focus on serving female clients and truly understanding their needs.

Help for Older Women

Two very well-known and respected retired advisors — Eleanor Blayney and Marjorie L. Fox — published a book in June that offers practical advice for women near or in their retirement years. The book helps women make sense of the confusion they often face at this time of their lives.

The book is also a must-read for advisors who want to understand the needs of older women. Advisors might also give the book to female clients and prospects as a way to help them clarify their own futures and appreciate the value of financial planning.

What I like so much about “Women Wi$e: The Essential Guide to Financial and Lifestyle Decisions as We Age” is that it is a very readable book. Marjorie and Eleanor include a lot of personal experiences about their own transitions into this new, later phase of life. They show that despite life’s many challenges, women can find ways to take care of themselves — emotionally and financially.

In the first chapter, “The Facts of Life for Older Women,” they acknowledge disadvantages faced by women, especially when it comes to lifetime earnings. By the time women are 75, the authors note, the majority are single compared with a minority of men. A life without a partner can certainly be a happy one, but it can also become more costly and more isolated. They also note financial scammers often target older women. Thankfully, they provide details on how to protect yourself from such lowlifes.

Lifestyle and Finances

The way the book is organized makes it very easy for readers to focus and revisit the authors’ advice on particular concerns. It offers a comprehensive look at everything from where to live and how to pay for it, Medicare and Social Security planning, annuities and more. I especially liked the chapter on annuities because it clearly explains the differences and why you might, or might not, be interested in certain types. Their mantra, simple is better, resonated with me.

The book’s chapter on creating a retirement paycheck offers a lot more detail on how to do it than many other books that I’ve read. They offer a number of options, including the more complicated Dedicated Portfolio Theory strategy, but they tell readers they are free to skip that part. It gets “into the weeds” and is more for advisors and investors who want to learn more.

The section on reverse mortgages also offers details that might cause many readers to tune out. Again, reverse mortgages are complicated and there’s no getting around that. For women who want to understand them, this book explains them clearly — more clearly than most others.

Toward its end, “Women Wi$e” includes a chapter on estate planning. It provides good advice on what documents should be in place and why, as well as on how to choose an estate planning attorney.

Telling Your Story

The book finishes with a chapter that makes the case for why it’s crucial to tell important people in our lives what we want and don’t want for our final years. There’s no magic moment for when people should do that, but Marjorie and Eleanor give ideas on how to do it.

More than anything, readers of this book are getting a roadmap on how to plan for a second half of life that is well-lived. We can’t ask for more than that.

Dorothy Hinchcliff is publisher of Rethinking65.

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