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Financial Education for Everyone

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April 27, 2007

Mother's Day has been around in one form or another since ancient Greece. Mothers (and wives and grandmothers) deserve heartfelt thanks for tackling one of the hardest jobs on the planet. But rather than simply taking them out for Sunday brunch, why not give the moms in your life a present with more lasting meaning: the gift of financial security.

Women – especially those at retirement age – often face greater financial difficulties than men:

  • Women live an average of seven years longer than men so their retirement savings often must last longer.
  • Women earn only about three-fourths of what men do, on average. This discrepancy can really add up, since at retirement most people live off the money they've accumulated over a lifetime of work.
  • Because women are more likely than men to take time off work to raise children, their Social Security and employer-provided retirement benefits are often much smaller.
  • Women tend to invest less aggressively than men so their retirement savings grow more slowly. Throughout a whole career the difference between high-risk and low-risk investments can be enormous.

So what can you do to help ensure a more secure financial future for your mother, your wife or yourself? Here are a few tips:

Expect the unexpected. An untimely illness, accident or death can devastate a family's finances. If you depend on someone else's income – especially if you have children – make sure you both carry adequate life, health and disability insurance. If you're self-supporting it's particularly important to be covered against accidents or disability, since even a brief period without income could deplete your savings.

Practical Money Skills for Life, a free personal financial management site sponsored by Visa Inc., contains a detailed guide to anticipating unexpected events such as disability, loss of employment or the death of a spouse (www.practicalmoneyskills.com/unexpected).

Plan ahead for retirement. Time is your biggest ally when it comes to retirement savings. Compound earnings, where the interest income earned by your savings in turn generates additional earnings, can make a huge difference over time, so start setting aside savings as soon as possible.

Many investment experts recommend establishing a retirement savings account, whether an IRA, 401(k), or other plan, even before starting a child's college fund. After all, you can always borrow money for college, a house or a car, but you can't get a loan to pay for your retirement. Check out the Practical Money Skills for Life site's retirement planning tips (www.practicalmoneyskills.com/retirement).

Budget, budget, budget. It's imperative to have a handle on how much money is coming in and going out, otherwise you can quickly burn through retirement savings. Many tools are available to help with budgeting: Money magazine's Web site, www.money.cnn.com/pf/101, features a step-by-step guide called Money 101 to help you set financial goals. The Practical Money Skills for Life Web site also contains interactive tools that can help you track expenses, set up a livable budget, calculate retirement income needs, and more (www.practicalmoneyskills.com/budgeting).

Your mom gave up a lot for you when you were growing up: Now's your chance to do something valuable in return.

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This article is intended to provide general information and should not be considered health, legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.

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