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Women’s Guide to Financial Planning

With Heather Croke of Boulay Financial Advisors

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, half of women between the ages of 55 and 66 have no personal retirement savings. A recent survey conducted by Betterment revealed that two out of five women have not saved any money for an emergency. Women lag behind men in both of these crucial aspects of financial planning.

The reasons for these disparities are manifold, but Heather Croke believes any woman can improve her situation simply by becoming more engaged in her personal finances. Heather is certainly qualified to say so as a wealth management partner with Boulay Financial Advisors, who since 1998 has provided families and individuals with a variety of financial services including tax preparation, investment, risk, debt and money management, and income tax, estate, retirement and education planning.

“Any woman, regardless of her age, would do well to begin tracking her spending,” said Heather. “There are many apps available for this purpose, including Boulay’s own, but they will all give you a solid idea of where your money is going. Making just a few seemingly insignificant changes will have a huge impact on your savings in the long term.

“If you’re only just setting out on your financial journey, you must prioritize creating an emergency fund. I advise saving three to six months’ worth of your expenses. Otherwise, you risk running up credit card balances, and such debt that carries a high interest rate can take even diligent individuals years to pay off. If your emergency fund is established, begin maximizing your contribution to your health savings account, as that money is set aside on a pre-tax basis to pay for qualified medical expenses. And because a single injury can take such a huge toll on her finances, I encourage every woman to consider purchasing disability insurance and reviewing to see if life insurance is necessary.

“Fund your own retirement account as well. If you can contribute to a traditional or Roth 401(k), invest at least enough to receive the company match. If you don’t have a 401(k), any contributions you make to an individual retirement account will ultimately serve you well. Few women realize how expensive potential future long-term care can be. If you spend any amount of time researching it, you will become more compelled to begin saving for it. There is never an advantage to delaying such an important investment.

“Women outlive men by five years on average. Many women aren’t aware of the ramifications of surviving their spouses, which often include receiving half as much in Social Security checks. Your tax status will also change, which is why it is crucial to prepare for potential widowhood by knowing every account and professional service your partner uses to manage your household finances – and securing your own access to them. 

“Every woman should have a will, advance healthcare directive, and an assigned power of attorney. Review these documents every couple of years and make certain all your beneficiaries on retirement accounts and life insurance policies stay apprised of any changes you make.

“I say the same thing to every woman I work for: Don’t hesitate to ask questions! It would be an understatement to say that financial planning is a dense subject, and too many women are afraid to explore it for fear of appearing misinformed or uneducated. By opening up and asking an expert everything they want to know about making their money work harder, any woman will invariably gain the knowledge she needs to proceed forward with confidence.

“But even if they don’t partner with a financial planner, there are countless books, podcasts and articles available to a woman who wishes to take a more active role in her finances. I would recommend beginning with Boulay’s own website, which covers topics ranging from wealth and investment management to estate and trust planning.”

Please visit to learn more, as well as to schedule an appointment with a financial planner in Eden Prairie.

  • Heather Croke, CPA, CFP®, Wealth Management Partner at Boulay

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