4 Common Financial Mistakes Women Make – And How to Avoid Them

4 Common Financial Mistakes Women Make – And How to Avoid Them
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It’s easy to make mistakes when managing money—whether you’re a man or a woman. For one thing, most people are so busy in their everyday lives that they simply don’t have time to carefully manage their money and spending.

For women especially, though, the long-term consequences of money management mistakes can be dire. Women often have fewer resources than men. Government research shows that women earn 22 percent less than men and save less of what they do earn. On top of that, women today often outlive men by at least a few years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All these factors combined mean the financial stakes are higher for women.

How can women improve their odds of financial success? Here are four common financial mistakes women make, and what to do about them.

  1. Saving too little, too late for retirement. Many women aren’t saving enough for retirement. A 2014 survey by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that women contributed a median 10.8 percent of their income to their retirement account, while men contributed 11.4 percent. That difference may seem insignificant at first glance. Over 30 years, however, that lower contribution rate can mean $50,000 less in retirement savings for a woman who earns $75,000 a year, according to the 401(k) Calculator on Regions.com. What to do: Women can improve their savings by increasing their retirement contribution rate each year, such as by one percent of income annually.
  2. Carrying Too Much Credit-Card Debt. Men have more debt than women overall, but women are more likely to keep revolving balances on credit cards and rack up fees, according to a 2012 report by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. For example, women were five percentage points more likely than men to carry a balance, and six percentage points more likely to be charged a late fee. What to do: The report suggests that women focus on charging only what they can afford to pay off every month on their credit cards—thereby avoiding interest charges—and seeking out credit cards with the lowest interest rates.
  3. Not saving enough for health care or long-term care. Numerous studies have shown that women pay more than men for healthcare. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for example, finds that women spend on average 25 percent more on healthcare than men. Moreover, women are more likely to need long-term care due to their greater longevity. Despite the higher costs women face, they had on average 35 percent less saved in health savings accounts (HSAs) than men in 2013, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. What to do: Women should consider setting up separate savings for future health and long-term care costs, if they haven’t already. An HSA allows investors to set aside tax-free dollars for healthcare expenses, but it must be coupled with a high-deductible health insurance plan. Long-term care insurance can also help women protect themselves against the financial risks of requiring extended care later in life.
  4. Investing too conservatively. A 2010 study by the Boston Consulting Group found that more than 70 percent of women surveyed favor a “balanced or conservative” investing approach. Other surveys have found that women have better long-term investment performance than men because they don’t act as rashly. However, investing too conservatively—such as keeping a large portion of savings in cash or bonds—can hurt your long-term performance. What to do: Investment research firm Morningstar Inc. recommends that investors keep a portion of their assets in stocks or other investments with higher growth potential—at least before retirement age.

A Regions Wealth Advisor can help you rectify any of these finance management mistakes and work with you to improve your financial situation. He or she can conduct a Regions Wealth Assessment®, a process that provides a comprehensive view of your assets and liabilities and helps you create a long-term wealth plan tailored to your unique needs and goals.

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