Financial Life Phases for Women | Harris & Harris Wealth Management


Smart women, Smart money

Recent Graduates & Career Transitionists

Women graduating a part of her life phases

More women are earning college degrees than men. More women are also in managerial and professional positions than ever before, resulting in 23% of wives bringing home more income than their husbands.

But 85% of women who are offered a job don’t even try to negotiate a salary offer and the 15% who do still earn 30% less than their male colleagues. There’s a “magic” number you need to reach in order to satisfy your financial goals.

Whether you’ve recently graduated or changed careers, salary negotiations are critical to living the life you envision now and in the future.

It’s important to evaluate your salary numbers before you finalize a career transition. I’ve worked with clients in strategy sessions to help them evaluate the minimum and maximum figures they should bring to the negotiation table when contemplating a new position.

I ask clients to think about the following questions to develop a target salary range before meeting with a future boss or human resources rep:

• What research have you done about the organization prior to seeking a position there?
• What are the salary trends for the position you’re seeking?
• How does your past work experience substantiate the salary you’re requesting?
• What other factors are important to you in your new position?

A client recently came to me to discuss her salary options for a career change she was considering. We had a few strategy sessions where we developed the professional and financial plans that would support her life goals. Her confidence and negotiation skills resulted in a major salary increase, giving her funding to maximize her retirement and emergency savings, especially because she owned rental property.

If you’re not making the salary you deserve or desire, contact me to set up an initial strategy session.

Single and on Your Own

Don’t look at your money as a silo. Instead, take a panoramic view that allows a clearer picture and a better outlook.

Comprehensive planning helps you make better financial decisions. This is key: your future is dependent on you, so use 401k, 403(b), TSPs and 457 plans. They help to build confidence for women who feel uncomfortable with the responsibility of managing their plans, selecting investments and most important, determining whether the accumulation is enough to secure their future.

When clients consult me for guidance, I always tell them, “I’m more concerned about you living than dead.” What I mean by that is I want to ensure that your money meets your needs now and in your future before we turn our focus to leaving a windfall for others after you die.

It’s important to create a checklist of factors that affect your ideal life. From that, I can better understand your goals and how to connect them to your finances.

For my single ladies, strategy meetings center around your needs, income and expenses, insurance coverage, and retirement contributions and savings. I’ll generate an analysis with recommendations about next steps and an implementation strategy that’s realistic and doable.

If you’re ready to solidify your future, contact me to set up your own strategy meeting.

Engaged Couples

Money represents many things in the context of a partnership or marriage, even in the early dating stage: power, status, security, communication, affection, success.

You need to develop a unified approach to your finances. Having a neutral party guide you through major decisions can benefit the relationship.

Hiring a financial planner at this stage can help you develop or finesse your combined budget and financial plan around saving and investing.

Ask yourself:

  1. – What are your overall life goals and how do they align with your finances?
  2. – What are your combined savings and investing plans?
  3. – When you evaluate your individual company benefits, whose are the best?

I encourage couples to come in and discuss a financial strategy, factoring in their individual goals and mapping out the specific steps they need to take to reach them. I’m here to be your mediator, help you develop a plan and provide insights on how to implement the specifics of your financial to-do list.
My book, Finance n Stilettos, can be a great place to start.

Order your copy!

What can I do for you?

I can help you by evaluating your current finances. This is through understanding and analyzing your net worth, risks and insurance needs, personal benefits, investments, taxes, retirement needs, estate planning goals, education planning options, inheritances, charitable planning, and divorce needs.

Married with Kids

Financial Life Phases Growing a Family

After the wedding, the next major event for most couples is having children.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it will cost $241,080 for a middle-income couple to raise a child born in 2012 to age 18.

Parenthood is an emotional investment but, as a mother, I can also confirm that children are a major financial investment too.


As we know, raising children is a lifelong commitment with lots of sacrifices. You think about their education and how it will be funded.

You want to know all of your options and which will best suit your family. There are so many obligations pulling at your purse strings, you don’t know where to start.

There are major considerations to talk through with a financial planner as you design your family’s future:

  • – Build your education savings goals around your retirement savings goals. Education planning doesn’t negate retirement planning.
  • – Determine how much of your child(ren)’s education you will fund.
  • – Will grandparents support your education savings such as 529 plans? If so, how much will they contribute? There are estate-planning options for grandparents. Consider asking them to join the conversation if saving for college is part of their legacy planning.
    a.) NANA/GIGI/GMA – Gives up to $14,000/year for each grandchild from her RMDs
  • – Do a cost benefit analysis of sending children to public versus private school. Is it best to use the money for public school and supplement their education to save extra money for college? Or do you anticipate that private school education will afford your children scholarship opportunities that will reduce your college costs?

Let’s talk through your goals to evaluate all of your options. I can help you do a cost benefit analysis—much like the sample below—which helps clients determine which choices will be best for your family.

The Cost of Education


You don’t want to finalize decisions that are based solely on an attachment or heightened emotional state. That’s why it’s important to keep feelings in check so you can respond based on actual facts.

It’s particularly important to understand the different types of divorces and which best suits your needs. It’s also critical to seek counsel separate from your spouse to protect your interests.

Having a financial planner as part of your professional team to do consultations, analysis and projections can benefit you in many ways.

A financial planner can help you examine the economic impact the divorce will have on your life.

Ask yourself:

  1. – Do you know the entire financial picture of the household before the divorce?
  2. – Are the items you want after the divorce in your best financial interest?
  3. – How will the divorce affect your financial future and life goals?

One of my clients contacted me after separating from her husband. Initially, they decided to avoid litigation to reduce costs and instead went through the mediation process. Those negotiations quickly fell apart.

She consulted with me to discuss her options and requested a comparative analysis on the effects of splitting their assets. I collaborated with her attorney to create a starting point for re-negotiations.

The analysis provided additional facts and leverage to support a reduction in the amount owed to her former husband.
Additional Resources
Protecting assets in divorce

401k IRA Nightmares

Additional information for business owners to consider

Widows & Surviving Partners

The loss of a spouse is emotionally devastating. You spent a segment of your life sharing memories, plans, goals and accomplishments together.

In the wake of their death, your emotions bounce between sadness, anger, loneliness and worry. Maybe you believed you would grow older together—travelling, spending time with grandchildren and friends, and creating new adventures. Maybe you were looking forward to a more quiet time to get to know each other better after handling the responsibilities of building a home and raising a family.

Now you’re forced to move on, day by day, without the person who was your partner.

Until this point, you may have had to make quick decisions because arrangements had to be made and business matters had to be handled. Now you’re left to figure out your life and finances alone.

Countless women compromise their financial future because of money mistakes they could have strategically avoided. Don’t allow emotions to drive your decision-making in this difficult time.

Pause to ask yourself:

  1. – What are your priorities as you rebuild and move forward?
  2. – What do your finances look like now that you’re alone?
  3. – Do you have information on all of your finances, such as bank, investment and retirement accounts?
  4. – What’s your current income? Is it enough to sustain your lifestyle?

One of my clients is a stay-at-home wife who lost her husband unexpectedly. He had just retired, so they planned to spend time traveling and spoiling their grandchildren. When I received the call that her husband passed, I reached out to her but she was so distraught, she didn’t want to talk.

When we finally met, she acknowledged her hesitancy and fear about sitting down with me. She’d learned that he had selected to forgo the spousal option with his pension. That meant she couldn’t depend on that income after his death.

She was understandably overwhelmed following his transition and stressed about her income needs. But after further research, I found that he had a large life insurance policy in place to take care of her. This is one of the benefits of having an existing financial team who can help you sort through life after the death of a loved one. You know who you’re dealing with and you can trust them because the relationship has already been established.

I’ve created the Widow’s Checklist to help empower you with steps and information as you work through this process.

Widow’s Checklist

Important Papers

Red Tape

Death Certificate


Notify An Attorney

Notify your attorney. Make an appointment to review your spouse’s will and discuss state and federal death taxes that may be due.

Contact Insurers

Contact life or accident insurers. Be sure to provide your spouse’s name, date of death and Social Security number along with a copy of the death certificate.

Call Employer

Change Ownership

Charitable Planning

Financial Life Phases Giving to your Charity

If you’re like me, you often think about how you want life to be for your children after you’re gone. What do I want my legacy to be? What does that look like for my family?

Did you know on an annual basis, Americans give over $300 billion dollars to charity?


Giving back is extremely important to families

1) because this is one way to pass important values about helping others on to children,
2) there are tax advantages of doing good through philanthropy and
3) it’s a way to stay engaged with meaningful causes.

If you’re like me, you often think about how you want life to be for your children after you’re gone. What do I want my legacy to be? What does that look like for my family?

Did you know that on an annual basis, Americans give over $300 billion dollars to charity?

Giving back is extremely important to families 1) because this is one way to pass important values about helping others on to children, 2) there are tax advantages of doing good through philanthropy and 3) it’s a way to stay engaged with meaningful causes.

There are several ways to fulfill your philanthropic goals. You can give cash or invest-able assets, such as stocks, bonds, real estate and life insurance. Charitable donations qualify for tax deductions, thus reducing your income tax.

Giving away highly appreciated assets can be part of your charitable planning strategy too, if they’re donated directly to the charity, which may eliminate capital gain taxes.



Family split on philanthropy? How to help

Do you know if you’re on track?

If you would like to discuss the results further, contact me for a 20 minute Discovery Session.

The Road to Retirement

Woman Retired Life Phases

For some women, money isn’t all that exciting unless they’re spending it or making it.

Some of us tune out about 30 seconds after listening to a financial expert whose voice quickly starts to sound like the adults in an old Charlie Brown cartoon. Wah wah pay down debt. Wah wah max out your savings. Wah wah live beneath your means. Dry or not, discussing money is important.

So what do you do? Plan, plan, plan. It starts there.

No plan is bullet-proof, but it helps to sit down and discuss things with a professional, someone you feel you can trust. Explain where you are now and where you’re trying to go. Describe how you see your life after the 9–5. Discuss your current cash flow—that is, your income minus your expenses—and any major changes you expect to occur by the time you want to retire.

Ask questions. Participating in the process will help develop confidence about the financial direction you’re taking. Always stay engaged and meet regularly with your planner.

I’ve had clients come to me to prepare for retirement. They are 15–20 years away from leaving their current professional life and want to know if they’re going to be able to retire when they want.

Their bottom-line question: what does my financial future look like? This is when I explore what they currently have in place, which requires them to share statements from old and current 401(k)s, TSP, 457, 403b, IRA, pensions and Social Security. I then prepare an analysis using their current savings habits, investment and retirement accounts, pensions and social security benefits to determine if they’re on track.

Knowing where you stand financially is only half the battle. Then I develop a plan and we work collectively on implementing strategies to get them where they want to be. I become part of each client’s personal advisor team.

If you’re ready to talk without the distortions and distractions of finance speak, contact me for a real conversation about your money and your future.


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