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(WOMENSENEWS)--Before the New Year gets much older, let's talk about women resolving to do more financial planning.
Yes, money management is one of a man’s traditional roles, stemming from the days when husbands were the primary—or sole—breadwinners. But times have changed.
Today, 40 percent of working women are the primary breadwinners for their families. Meanwhile, more than 8.3 million businesses in the United States are owned by women, according to the second annual State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, commissioned by the American Express OPEN Forum.
Over the past 15 years, the growth in the number of women-owned businesses (up 54 percent), how many people they employ (up 9 percent) and their overall revenue (up 58 percent) exceeds the growth rates of all but the largest, publicly-traded firms.
Couple these statistics with the number of women who participate in the U.S. labor force—currently at 66 million or 46 percent of the overall force—and the powerful role women play in the economy starts to become clearer.
But while women's entrepreneurship is rising and while women's participation in the work force is rivaling that of men, a gender gap remains when it comes to financial planning.
Women in their 20s and 30s struggled to answer six basic finance questions, according to a comprehensive study on the state of financial literacy of educated women that was presented at a recent gathering sponsored by the Council for Economic Education.
Another study, conducted by GenSpring Family Offices, found a big disparity between men and women on topics related to money management. When it came to financial planning, 88 percent of men felt they are knowledgeable versus 57 percent of women. While 78 percent of men felt they are knowledgeable about financial management, only 50 percent of women said the same.
To close the financial-literacy gap, parents can begin talking to their daughters more. Data suggest that financial literacy begins with a rigorous financial education at an early age.
Studies have shown that women leave most money decisions to their husbands or in the case of unmarried women—who currently have a labor participation rate of 76 percent—the job is performed by hired consultants.
While it may be tempting to hand off the burden of financial management, women should stay actively involved. This will ensure that a woman shapes her own future by focusing on ways to achieve long- and short-term goals.
Statistically speaking, even married women are likely to have to eventually take on sole oversight of their finances since nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. Also, women tend to live longer than their husbands.
Sudden or unanticipated changes aren't the only reason to take a more active role in your personal finances. If you are more involved with financial decisions you have more control over yourselves, your families and loved ones.
Financial planning means asking a number of critical questions. Do you want to retire early? Do you and your spouse want to travel while you are still young and healthy enough to do so? Will you be responsible for helping your children pay for college? Do you want to spend your sunset years volunteering your time for a charitable cause?
These are not dry, boring questions. They are questions that hold the key to your whole life. Start planning!
Carol Khouri, CFP®, CDFA® is a certified financial planner and a principal with Wingate Wealth Advisors in Lexington, Mass. She can be reached at email@example.com.