Finances play a huge role in your life, and one of the biggest potholes in your financial journey is debt. As women, planning for retirement and ensuring our financial health is solid is already a difficult task to tackle, so why add in the unnecessary stress of debt?
Mary Hunt, founder of Debt-Proof Living and the author of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Planning for Retirement (Revell, 2013) shares what the single most important financial planning “thing” to do this year is, and you’ve probably already guessed what it is: get out of debt.
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Retirement is a loaded word. How can women push past the fear and uncertainty associated with retirement?
You’re so right. “Retirement” IS a loaded word—loaded with emotion, myth, fear and for some of us, terror. And left to themselves, those emotions do not lessen with age—they become more intense.
Retirement for me meant pre-death, the Final Act. I’m sure each of us has a different idea of what retirement means, but from what I am learning, it is not usually a pleasant thing.
The way to push through fear and denial is to embrace truth. That means giving up our fantasies that we will never age, that the government or our husbands will take care of everything for us. It means moving out of denial and into the light of God’s truth. He gives us just one day at a time, no matter our age. We are not to worry about the future, but to be good stewards of the health and wealth He gives us today.
Statistically, women know that we will outlive our men. We have to prepare for the time that we will be on our own—our sole source of support. That’s the truth.
Is it enough to invest in a 401k (or similar plan), or do women need to be actively pursuing other retirement preparations?
Funding tax-advantaged retirement accounts like 401(k), IRA, Roth-IRA and so forth, is just one of the six strategies I recommend in The Smart Woman’s Guide to Planning for Retirement. The other five strategies are equally important because you sure do not want all of your retirement assets in one basket being held by the government.
Until you withdraw those funds in retirement and pay the taxes on them, those accounts technically belong to the government. The rules can change at anytime and for any reason—without your consent or permission. That’s why you also need:
- a money-management plan,
- a solid emergency fund,
- you need to free yourself of all unsecured debt,
- to own a home free and clear of any mortgage by the time you retire,
- and have a personal investment portfolio.
Don’t panic. All of these strategies are easily in any woman’s ability, provided she starts as soon as possible. And the younger you are when you get going on this, the easier it will be.
What is the single best thing that our readers can do to prepare for their financial futures?
Get out of debt. Debt steals your options and robs from your future. It keeps you in bondage, always living in the past. As long as you’re carrying the worst kind of debt (credit-card debt followed closely by student debt), you will find it nearly impossible to get on track with achieving the six strategies.
Start by attacking your credit-card debt. And I mean with a vengeance. Get a plan then stick to it. Start knocking these debts out cold even if it means working a second (or third?) job.
How does our attitude towards debt, finances, retirement, etc, need to change?
Oh that first one—debt—is the biggie. Our culture has made consumer debt appear to be such a great way to have all we want now and just pay for it in the future. That is a lie I believed for many years and it got me into a lot of trouble.
The truth is that debt presumes on the future. When we buy things now—planning to pay for them later— we assume we will have a job, health and more than that—the desire to spend our future income that way. We make an arrogant presumption on God’s mercy—that He will provide the means in the future to pay for things we demand to have now.
Debt keeps us in bondage. I’ve been there. I know what that feels like and it doesn’t feel good.
Our attitudes about saving for the future need to change from “optional” to “mandatory.” Just like withholding for taxes from your paycheck, retirement saving needs to be a mandatory. No options, no excuses. A change of attitude is all that needs to happen there to make it a reality.
Here’s the bottom line: We need to become the best stewards we can of the things God entrusts to us on a daily basis. We plan, we prepare. Then we turn it all over to the Lord, trusting Him for the outcome.
We are honored at Ronald Blue Trust to have the privilege to serve women from all walks of life — professionals, mothers, daughters, retirees, widows, and students across the nation providing biblically-based wisdom for their finances. Our advisors work hard to provide as many useful resources as they can to guide you and your family in gaining clarity and confidence, and leaving a lasting legacy. Click here for more information!