Book Review: The Smart Woman’s Guide To Planning For Retirement

maryAccording to a 2012 survey, 92 percent of women in the United States admitted that they aren’t financially prepared for retirement because they haven’t planned and saved for it. Many women may be procrastinators when they think about planning for retirement, while others may not want to think about it because they’re afraid to face the fact that they don’t know how to prepare for it. However, in today’s unpredictable economy, a woman must be smart about her finances. For today’s smart woman, it’s never too late to take steps now in order to face retirement with confidence and hope for the future.

In “The Smart Woman’s Guide To Planning For Retirement,” author Mary Hunt of nearly 20 books on personal finances, and Debt Proof Living, advises today’s smart woman to take charge of her financial life so that she will be financially prepared for retirement. Mary’s book is based on her own personal learning experiences of making financial mistakes that she regrets from her past. However, Mary believes that financial mistakes in the past can always be turned around to use as learning opportunities for the future. By following the steps in her book, every woman can start today to take steps to be ready for retirement. Even though the content of this book contains general advice for both men and women, Mary’s target reading market is directed toward women.

Mary lists six specific strategies that women can take now in order to create a retirement savings plan: (1) Develop a money management system using a checking and savings account; (2) Build an emergency fund; (3) Get out of debt; (4) Maximize retirement accounts; (5) Own a home outright; and (6) Build up a personal investment portfolio. Each of these six strategies is discussed in detail, with practical illustrations and application woven throughout.

Often women say they don’t know how much money they need to retire. Mary addresses this issue by listing specific ways to calculate the amount through the educated guess approach, the rule of thumb approach, the rough estimate approach, and the focus on expenses approach. Any one or a combination of these methods will give the reader a target or goal for her six strategies.

In Chapter 14, Mary lists specific action plans for women by age groups — in their twenties, in their thirties, in their forties, in their fifties, and in their sixties. For example, women in their thirties who may be married and starting a family should start putting more serious effort into planning for their retirement. Mary recommends that they should be funding their 401(k) and Roth IRA, saying no to debt except for mortgage debt, saving for their children’s education, purchasing life insurance, and building their contingency fund to get out of debt. A reader can review this information and see where she is and what more she should be doing as she progresses toward retirement.

In the process of planning for retirement, a woman may need the services of a competent, unbiased financial planner for advice and guidance. Mary explains what a financial planner is, what a financial planner does, the benefits of using a financial planner, and how a financial planner is paid; she then lists six questions to ask a potential financial planner. Mary gives her personal advice as to what type of financial professional she uses and the reason for her choice.

Mary’s advice relating to managing money responsibly is based on her fundamental seven money rules for life, as described in detail in her recent book “7 Money Rules For Life.” These include: (1) Spend less than you earn; (2) Save for the future; (3) Give some away to others who are in need; (4) Anticipate irregular expenses; (5) Tell your money where to go; (6) Manage your credit; and (7) Borrow only what you know that you can repay. When a woman follows these money rules, she will be building a solid foundation for personal money management in order to be able to prepare financially for retirement.

As a Christian believer, Mary believes that the Bible is the guidebook for all financial advice. In Scripture, principles have been given to help a woman learn to get out of debt, how to stay out of debt, how to become financially stable, how to save, how to invest, how to spend, how to prosper, how not to waste money, and how to make the most out of money. Without obedience to His laws, human efforts to manage money will be in vain. Since God is the source of everything (including money), everything that a woman owns has been given to her by God. God expects her to use and invest her money responsibly, as the Biblical parable of the three servants clearly illustrates. God desires that every woman be a wise steward of the money that He has entrusted to her in order to honor Him with her finances.

Mary appeals to every smart woman to become financially independent. A woman can do this by: (1) Maintaining good financial records; (2) Having her name on all joint bank accounts; (3) Managing her own credit in her name by having her own credit card; (4) Assessing her insurance needs and buying enough to protect herself from risk; (5) Creating wills for both herself and her spouse, if married; and (6) Saving by putting money in her own personal savings account and Individual Retirement Account.

In the final chapter, Mary urges all women to heed the wake-up call and to start preparing for retirement today. Smart women are doers and can face the future with confidence. Three steps that should be taken immediately are: (1) Have a talk with a spouse or close friend about the need to plan for retirement in order to establish accountability; (2) Make a list of the things that you would like to do in the future if you had more time to do them, and then start to prepare for the transition into retirement; and (3) Create a plan using the six planning strategies, and use a projected timetable for achieving the plan.

This book can be highly recommended to women of all ages. Mary’s warm, humorous, and personalized writing style makes this book easy to read and enjoyable. Once the reader starts reading it, she’ll find that she can’t put the book down but will find herself highlighting specific information and taking notes on action items to pursue. Mary’s advice is practical, relevant, and timely for today’s busy woman. Her message is powerful and urgent — it’s not too late to take action to start planning for your retirement today.

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