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Women Over 50: Your Professional Checklist

Quick tips on keeping your finances and career in optimal shape.

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on March 19, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

Many women over 50 feel insecure about their retirement picture. Is there enough money to live comfortably? Is it time for retirement -- or just a change of careers?

A woman may indeed have a riskier financial picture as she ages. "Women typically have worked fewer years than men, and for lower wages," says Jean Setzfand, director of financial security at the AARP. "Yet they tend to outlive their spouses -- and will likely have greater health care costs as they age. That means their income will drop at an even greater rate as they get older."

And some women over 50 may find themselves dissatisfied with jobs or careers they've devoted decades to developing, says Cynthia Barnett, EdD, a retirement lifestyle specialist based in Norwalk, CT. "At mid-life, you begin thinking 'what's my purpose in life.' This starts a whole cycle of self-reflection, a search for work you love to do," she tells WebMD.

Women Over 50: Boosting Your Financial and Professional Power

Are you ready to give your career and finances a boost? This to-do list will get you started:

___Learn about finances. Educate yourself about retirement planning, your options, and your financial picture. Stay up-to-date on Social Security and Medicare. The more financially literate you become, the better decisions you'll make. And for women over 50, there's still time to catch up on retirement savings. Not sure where to start? Talk to a financial planner (to get unbiased advice, pay a flat fee for a visit), take a financial planning night course, or ask friends how they're handling the road to retirement.

___Complete a self-assessment on a retirement calculator. All the big investment management firms have financial planning calculators on their web sites, as does the AARP. Women over 50 should factor in all their sources of retirement income, including social security, employer-based retirement income (pension and 401k), and personal savings (IRA accounts).

___Start saving now. The percentage of income you should sock away depends on your circumstances, but aim for 10% if you can, and more is better, say the experts at CNNMoney.com. If you do it via payroll deduction, which is done before taxes, you won't even miss it.

___Be disciplined. Stick with your retirement plan. Take advantage of catch-up provisions in IRAs and 401(k)s that allow you to put away more tax-deferred income if you're 50 or older.

___Develop good habits. Women over 50 should set up a household budget. It's a good habit to live below your means. Don't build up debt.

___Protect your credit. Good credit allows you buy a home affordably, and protects you from costly loans with outrageously high fees. Because errors on your credit report can creep in (errors that could make you look like a bad credit risk) check your credit report at least once a year -- for free -- at annualcreditreport.com.

___Keep it simple. Make sure to automate as much as possible. If you have an employer retirement plan, set up regular deductions. If you don't, open an individual IRA and automate regular withdrawals from a checking or savings account. Self-employed? You can open a SEP IRA and a self-employed 401(k) to achieve the same ends. Taking care of your retirement picture -- while you're still working -- is one of the most important things you can do to for your financial future.

___Talk about it. When you're ready for a new career -- or planning a big change of any kind -- talk about it with friends, family, even acquaintances. Such networking may not only result in leads, but even more great new ideas.

___Read inspiring books. Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Jack Canfield's The Success Principles, and Marcus Buckingham's Now, Discover Your Strengths are good reading material as you start your search.

___Take self-improvement classes. Use a week's vacation on an inspiring workshop, one that will help you find your new path. Even if you can't quit your job right now, taking steps toward your dreams will bring satisfaction.

___Find a life coach. This is not a therapist or a psychologist. It's someone who will listen to your dreams, help you talk through the possibilities, and guide you on your path. While one-on-one counseling can be expensive, life coaches often hold weekly group sessions that are affordable. Barnett meets weekly via telephone with several women -- living in California, Oregon, and Florida -- in a group session.

"The purpose is to learn to live your life so that the by-product is happiness," she tells WebMD. "That doesn't mean just smiling all the time. It means utilizing your strengths, practicing gratitude, taking time for self-reflection. It also involves very simple habits that are very important -- that help you go out into the world, help you be who you are."

Being who you are -- or want to be -- is vital not just for women over 50 but for everyone, at any stage of life.

Show Sources

Published March 21, 2007.

SOURCES: Jean Setzfand, director of financial security, AARP. Cynthia Barnett, EdD, retirement lifestyle specialist, Norwalk, Conn. CNNMoney.com: "Retirement: How Much to Save."

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