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Women must prep for old age

Updated: May 3, 2013 12:14PM

Mother's Day is a time to remember that women face special financial issues - even if they aren't mothers. Almost every woman has that small, secret fear of being a bag lady, of winding up old, alone and needy. It's not an irrational fear.

Once a woman reaches age 65, chances are she will outlive a man by five years. Women simply live longer. According to 2004 U.S. Census Bureau figures, 117,295,000 adult females live in this country. Of those, 11,146,000 were widows. By contrast, the adult male population totaled 110,048,000. Of those, only 2,648,000 were widowers. Long-term care insurance

If there is a man in a woman's life as she ages, she's more likely to be the caregiver, using up both her energy and her financial resources.

That's why I always use the Mother's Day holiday as a reminder to consider the purchase of long-term care insurance. It is the perfect gift for Mom -- or for Dad on Father's Day. (See the columns on that subject at my Web site,

Whether widowed or divorced or alone by choice, women need to confront the financial issues -- and the sooner the better. If you are in the process of divorce, or if you become a widow, there is help for you in two books that have stood the test of time, and are now out in new editions.

The fourth edition of Alexandra Armstrong and Mary Donahue's wonderful book On Your Own: A Widow's Passage to Emotional and Financial Well Being is now in bookstores. When I was asked to write a comment for the book jacket at its first publication several years ago, I said: "If someone you care about is widowed, don't send flowers -- send this book!" Those are exactly my sentiments today.

This book has aged well, and now it's been updated. The two authors weave tales of women in vastly different circumstances who find themselves widowed and facing a range of emotional and financial problems and decisions. This is not a "feel good" book -- although it certainly will make a widow feel better.

It is packed with specific advice -- from dealing with shock to planning a funeral, from reorganizing your finances and making a budget to selecting new advisers and making a decision to sell the house and relocate.

Given the fact that nearly half the marriages in this country will end in divorce, here's another book that will be helpful, not only to women but to the men who will also survive divorce better if it is handled in a reasonable way.

If more divorcing couples read Divorce and Money by Violet Woodhouse, now in its seventh edition, divorce lawyers wouldn't be so rich.

Certainly couples might need individual counsel to deal with differences over custody and parenting, or to understand state legal requirements. But since so much of the divorce litigation is directed at money, couples would have more assets left to split if they could agree on a structure in which to discuss these issues.

Divorce and Money will take you by the hand and guide you to sensible solutions about how to divide debt, how to deal with assets such as the family home or the retirement plan, and how to lower the costs of the process. Woodhouse is a certified financial planner who understands the long-term financial impact of decisions made in divorce.Fair, favorable and sensible

When divorce is complicated by debt problems, abuse of credit or sophisticated assets, Woodhouse has ideas for structuring settlements to be both fair and favorable -- and sensible.

I'm not suggesting you become your own lawyer -- only that the more you know, the less you'll fight, and the more money you'll save.

Acting knowledgeably in times of stress, such as divorce or death, is critically important in defeating the worry about winding up alone, in poverty -- a bag lady. Only by confronting money decisions and arming ourselves with knowledge can women truly have financial security. And that's The Savage Truth.

Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser. Check out Terry's answers to reader questions at, and click on Business. Distributed by Creators Syndicate.

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