January 11, 2011

Financial Planning for Women

By Steven D. Brett, Managing Director, Partner, Marcum Wealth

Financial Planning for Women

Women are no longer just a powerful force in today’s economy. It is estimated over 60% of the nation’s wealth is controlled by women. Some may have inherited wealth and may or may not be employed. Some are corporate executives, entrepreneurs or middle management. They may be single, married or divorced. They may or may not have children. A woman’s financial situation is often unique, and an individual approach to financial planning is essential. However, areas of common concern do exist.

Many women work outside the home. If so, they may have income tax problems, especially if they face higher taxes because they are single and unable to file a joint return. To address these problems, women should consider the following areas: the role of tax-advantaged investments to reduce their tax burden; the taxation and treatment of executive perks from their employer; the effect of age-related tax and Social Security provisions; and the tax problems of a small business including choice of organization, the selection of a retirement plan and the taxes upon disposition of their business interest.

Closely related to income tax planning for women is investment planning. Investment selection and asset allocation involve much more than tax considerations. There are various questions women should consider. Do investment objectives line up with financial resources and needs? Is the investment advice they are receiving objective, reliable and in line with their goals, time horizon and risk tolerance? Will a trust help with their investment planning? Women who are too busy or unable to oversee the day-to-day management of their investments should consider a trust. A trust may provide the comfort that comes with knowing that financial affairs will be properly handled in all eventualities.

Estate planning, like tax and investment planning, depends on individual circumstances. Whether a woman has built her own estate through work investments, or a business, or whether a woman has inherited a husband’s estate is irrelevant. What matters is that she is aware of the estate planning options that are available. Unmarried or widowed, a single woman might use lifetime gifts to reduce her estate tax burden by using the gift tax annual exclusion and lifetime unified credit. Trusts may also be useful in a program of lifetime gifts, particularly where minor children or grandchildren are involved. Estate plan coordination, charitable contributions and life insurance can also be extremely important toward achieving estate planning goals.

For those women working for a large employer or inheriting their spouse’s retirement plan, they will frequently be faced with decisions affecting retirement benefits. Those decisions may have a significant impact on their financial situation the remainder of their life. Critical questions may arise such as: which of the several distribution options provided by an employer’s qualified retirement plan is best; will their retirement nest egg be adequate to maintain their present lifestyle; and what benefits will they be entitled to from Social Security, Medicare, and employer-sponsored plans?

No two women are alike nor are the financial predicaments in which women are likely to find themselves. As anyone can see, there are a variety of issues, problems and solutions to consider. Adopting a systematic and individualized approach with the aid of financial planning professionals can help to address and solve these problems while achieving a woman’s investment, retirement and estate planning goals.

This material was prepared by Raymond James for use by Steven D. Brett, President of Marcum Financial Services LLC., and Jennifer Riek, Financial Advisor of Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC.

If you have any questions pertaining to this article, please contact Steven D. Brett or Jennifer Riek at 631-414-4020 or by e-mail at [email protected].