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Cents & Sensibility: Ensuring Your Financial Independence

Cents & Sensibility: Ensuring Your Financial Independence
Regardless of relationship status, there are certain steps that all women should take to care for themselves financially. Our financialista offers an explanation of the basic necessities.


I recently attended an event where the keynote speaker was a woman who shared her motivation for success: a strong desire to be able to take care of herself should the need arise. I couldn’t help thinking that every woman (single or married) should aim for a similar goal.

Years ago, I coached a 50-year-old mother of three teenagers through the unexpected death of her husband, who was a successful physician. There were weekly tearful phone calls, as she dealt with the fear of running out of money and not being able to pay for her daughters’ education. While she ended up being okay, there were certain steps that could have been taken before her husband’s death that would have alleviated a lot of the fear and change.

First of all, every woman should have enough money set aside to support herself for about six months in the event that she loses her support system. For most women this equates to about $20,000, which would cover the basics of rent, utilities and living expenses. Don’t worry if you don’t have that kind of money in a savings account right now, but get started today on building it! Saving $50 per paycheck is a good place to begin.

Second, it is vital that certain legal documents are in place to protect you and your family in the event of an accident or illness. A healthcare power of attorney and living will are two documents that EVERY person should have in her safe deposit box. Even if you are single without children, you don’t want to place the burden of determining your wishes on your parents or siblings should something happen to you. Your doctor probably has a fill-in-the-blanks living will that you can complete until you have a chance to work with an attorney to draft a more formal directive.

It is also essential to have a last will and testament in place, particularly if you have children. A will not only ensures that your assets are passed on to those you wish to receive them, but it also directs who is in charge of any outstanding affairs you may have (this person is called the executor) and names the desired guardian of your children. Without a will, state law determines the administration of your estate, which can lead to additional heartache and loss for your loved ones.

Finally, you must ensure that adequate life insurance is in place to support your survivors should the unthinkable occur. For married couples, both partners should have at least a term policy in place on each other. The amount of insurance needed is dependent on each family’s situation, but at a minimum should be enough to pay off any outstanding debt such as a mortgage, cars and credit cards plus a reasonable amount to allow the surviving spouse to live comfortably while he or she deals with the loss without worrying about finding work.

This is the area where my client’s husband had scrimped, leaving his family with life insurance equal to only one year of his salary. Faced with the reality of maintaining her lifestyle on a relatively small lump sum, my client had to make some tough choices about finding work, selling the family’s home and putting off a car purchase for her daughter.

While the above list is a good place to start, I also strongly recommend enlisting the assistance of a financial coach, attorney or other financial professional to make sure the necessary steps have been taken to ensure your family’s security. It is not a fun process, but like fixing your roof before it caves in, you don’t want to find out what happens if you DON’T do it.
Kelley C. Long -

Kelley Long is a certified public accountant (CPA), Cincy Chic's former financial columnist, a downtowner, and a financial coach and owner of Kelley C. Long Consulting. You can e-mail her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .Read More >>


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