Women and Money: Three Ways to Plan for the Future as Life Happens

Childcare, divorce and aging parents can all take a toll on a woman’s financial security, but planning ahead, becoming financially literate and staying proactive can help.

A woman works at her desk in an office.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Life often throws us curveballs, but as women, we face a specific set of challenges that often have a less significant impact for our male counterparts. These include navigating childcare challenges, supporting aging parents and handling changes in marital status via divorce or death of a spouse. These family matters have a direct impact on women’s lives, as well as their careers and finances, and balancing these demands with building long-term wealth can be an arduous task.

I encourage my clients and peers to face these challenges for women and money head-on. Here’s what I recommend:

1. Proper planning allows for flexibility as career and family obligations shift.

Women are often tasked with caregiving obligations, and recent research shows that 62% of women provide more than 20 hours of weekly care to children or aging parents, compared to 38% of men. This contributes greatly to the comparative gap that we see in women’s wages.

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When I was in my late 30s and my children were 2 and 4 years old, I opted to shift from my full-time role in marketing to part-time work. This was due both to lack of flexibility from my employer and the desire to spend more time with my children. I was in the fortunate position to have a supportive husband, and I had been diligently socking money away in my 401(k) plan.

I eventually decided to launch a new career as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, knowing how important it is to make wise financial decisions. Taking time off from my prior career and then restarting in a new profession meant I had to work my way back up the career ladder again. It impacted my ability to save for retirement and may affect my future Social Security payments. But it also gave me precious time for my family and the opportunity to work in a career that provides me with a good income, flexibility and a lot of satisfaction from the work I do with clients.

Having a clear picture of your overall financial situation is a good starting point to be able to create a roadmap to move forward:

  • Understand what you own, like your house and investments, and what you owe, including debts like mortgage and car payments.
  • Understand your cash flow — what is your income and what are your expenses?
  • Have a budget to stick to and a savings goal — assign a specific job to every dollar that you earn to help create your best life possible.
  • Your emergency fund is essential. We recommend having about six months’ worth of essential living expenses stored away. If a life event is going to change your lifestyle significantly, you will want to make the necessary adjustments to your budget so you don’t have to pull from that emergency fund.

If a situation arises where you need to dip into your savings, there are ways to do so that would minimize the impact on your overall financial future, such as pulling from a retirement account, taking out a loan or considering another form of borrowing. It is important to look at all of your options and analyze your specific situation and needs.

2. Enhancing your financial literacy will empower your short- and long-term success.

According to the 2022 TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index, women with low financial literacy are five times more likely to have difficulty making ends meet and three times more likely to be debt constrained. The results of a test given by the American College of Financial Services showed that 89% of women failed in the category of retirement literacy.

Financial literacy seems to go hand-in-hand with level of experience handling money. In younger generations, women are starting to out-earn men in many areas of the world, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. That puts them in an advantageous situation to be more hands-on with managing where that money is going and learning about important financial matters that they otherwise might have to seek out education on.

Financial literacy is especially important in instances like divorce where a couple are going to be separating their financial situations. Working with clients going through divorce, I have seen situations where the family mortgage, car loan and credit cards were all in the husband’s name, so the wife had no credit score at all. Getting a mortgage or approval for any type of loan is very difficult with no proven history of credit or money management.

We try to avoid this by making sure that both halves of a couple are engaged in conversation during financial planning meetings, to ensure that both voices are being heard and needs are being met on both sides of the relationship. Post-divorce, new financial goals must be set, and it is crucial for women to write down their new goals and create a plan around them.

3. Staying proactive can help you stick to your plans.

Women are interested in crafting tangible long-term plans that they can easily visualize and that enable them to understand the risks they are taking along the way. Analyzing your overall financial picture and being sure you have a grasp of important financial literacy topics are both key to building wealth for the future.

Though women can potentially face major setbacks when it comes to saving for their future, it is still possible to take and maintain control of your financial situation by being proactive and consistent in sticking to your plan. Childcare and caring for family members are unavoidable aspects of life and won’t necessarily have a detrimental impact on your finances, if planned for and handled with diligence.

Life events that are often unexpected, like divorce or becoming a widow, can be difficult and scary, as you are stepping into unknown territory. But continuing to stay on top of prioritizing your long-term financial goals and simply having important conversations will soften any impact that a life-altering event may have for women looking to build and grow their wealth.

Marshall Financial Group, Inc (“Marshall Financial”) is an SEC-registered investment adviser with its principal place of business in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. This newsletter is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to Marshall Financial Group’s investment advisory services. Investing involves risk, including risk of loss. This newsletter contains certain forward‐looking statements (which may be signaled by words such as “believe,” “expect” or “anticipate”) which indicate future possibilities. Due to known and unknown risks, other uncertainties and factors, actual results may differ materially from the expectations portrayed in such forward‐looking statements. As such, there is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed in this letter will come to pass. Additionally, this newsletter contains information derived from third party sources. Although we believe these sources to be reliable, we make no representations as to the accuracy of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party incorporated herein, and take no responsibility, therefore. For additional information about Marshall Financial, please request our disclosure brochure as set forth on Form ADV using the contact information set forth herein, or refer to the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website (www.adviserinfo.sec.gov). Please read the disclosure statement carefully.


This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Paula Nangle, CFP®
President, Senior Wealth Advisor, Marshall Financial Group

Paula is the President of Marshall Financial Group in Doylestown, Pa., and has worked in the financial services industry for 19 years. She also serves as a Senior Wealth Advisor and specializes in helping corporate executives and women in transition make complex financial life decisions with comfort and confidence. She achieved her Bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University, Master of Science from the University of Florida and MBA from NYU Stern School of Business.