You’re Taking Care of Others, But Who’s Taking Care of You?!

Lara Hinz, my friend, colleague and Director of Programs at the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) has penned this guest post. She raises a very important point – while we have our hands full taking care of others, our own future well-being is likely falling by the wayside. WISER aims to change that and Lara has some pointers for you.

Caregiving is a common theme in many women’s lives. As young girls and teenagers we may have helped take care of grandma, or perhaps we were babysitters for our younger siblings or other kids in the neighborhood. Many women become mothers, and then eventually, as family members age, the caregiving role for all women often expands to include parents, grandparents and older relatives. And like it or not, it is still typically women who shoulder the load of these caregiving responsibilities.

When it comes to caring for someone, women often put themselves at the bottom of that list. It is hard to juggle it all, but it is important for women to realize that this comes at a cost. Even beyond their experience as caregivers, women’s needs differ greatly from men at most stages of their lives. This is especially true when it comes to finances. Women on average earn less, spend more years out of the labor market, and live longer than men. While many women are involved in their family’s day-to-day finances, far fewer are engaged in the long-term financial planning; things such as investments, insurance, retirement plans, etc. Yet it is women who will most likely spend more years widowed or single in their later years. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security either; many women who were not poor during their working years or years spent raising a family have ended up poor and struggling in retirement. It’s not a pleasant thought, but it is a real possibility that we all must face.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a financial genius or spend hours poring over investment books and magazines to get yourself on the right track; a little bit of education and action can go a long way. Once you get started, it is easy to keep building on the steps you take to prepare yourself for a secure financial future. But you have to start…now!

The Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) is here to help. WISER is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the long-term financial security for all women through education and advocacy. For the past 15 years, WISER has been giving women the information they need at every age and every stage of life so they can take action to protect themselves in retirement. In addition to caregiving, we focus on a variety of financial issues related to saving, investing, Social Security, healthcare, divorce, and widowhood.

WISER’s booklet, Financial Steps for Caregivers takes you step-by-step through understanding the financial risks of caregiving so that you can make informed financial decisions. The guide also includes tools and other resources for managing your money and caring for yourself while caring for others.

Another great resource available at WISER’s website (www.wiserwomen.org) includes What Today’s Woman Needs to Know and Do: The New Retirement Journey. This booklet explains how today’s woman will most likely experience a retirement that is vastly different from that of her mother’s generation. It provides valuable information on everything from Social Security and investment basics, to annuities and life insurance. In addition, there is a retirement planning checklist for every decade of your life.

For most women, there is little room for error, and being financially unprepared for the last nearly third of their lives will have consequences. Women need to know what their risks are and make moderating those risks a priority throughout their lives. So while caring for others, take some time to care for yourself—it’s well worth it, and you deserve it!

If you want to follow up, you can reach Lara at lhinz@wiserwomen.org

‘Til next time,

Your (Wo)Man in Washington

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