It is so important for women to financially educate themselves, statistically women will find themselves alone at some stage and one of the biggest regrets women, with a partner, have is letting their partner control all the finances.

Many older women find themselves suddenly single after separation or bereavement and women over the age of 50 are significantly more likely than men to live alone.

Buying property and funding retirement alone can be a daunting prospect for a single person. For women in particular it doesn't help that, on average, they earn less than men, and live more than four years longer than men, meaning longer retirements to fund. Women are more likely to take time out of the workforce to raise children and often again later in their lives to look after elderly parents.

Divorce can hit women harder than men. I learnt from an early age not to expect someone else to take care of me financially. Regardless of whether you end up in a relationship or not, gaining control of your finances will give you the best chance of having a financially secure future. I teach budgeting 101 to all my new clients, as having a good understanding of your cash flow allows you to make informed financial decisions.

Here are some thought-provoking statistics:

  • Three out of five working women earn less than $30,000 per year.
  • At age 65, women have an average life expectancy of 20 years, compared to 17 for men.
  • Nearly half of all women over 45 are unmarried.
  • From age 65 on, women are more than twice as likely as men to be widowed, divorced, separated or never married.
  • At age 65 and older, 40% of women live alone, compared to 19% of men.
  • Women are now earning the equivalent to what men were earning 10 years ago.
  • Social Security represents 53% of total income for unmarried women over 65.
  • 39.5% of women are kept out of poverty by receiving social security; 12.5% are poor despite receiving social security.

Tips for ensuring financial security

Procrastination is deadly when it comes to retirement planning. That’s doubly true for single women, who must fund their post-work life entirely on their own. Women should start saving for retirement as soon as they start working, even if it’s only a small amount of money.

Too many women end up sacrificing their financial security to help their loved ones. That’s an especially dangerous move for single women, who may be caring for ageing parents or raising children on their own. If women always put other people’s needs first, they may approach retirement age with little in savings and no back-up plan. Knowing where to draw the line is key. Do not save for your children’s education before you save for your retirement – you cannot borrow money for retirement.

Unmarried women need to take extra steps to protect themselves in the event they can no longer make financial or medical decisions themselves. They can assign enduring powers of attorney for both health and finances. These legal documents ensure that medical and financial decisions are made by someone you trust, not a distant relative or court-appointed guardian.

Getting your finances in order also means protecting yourself against illness, injury and death. With so many people being affected by cancer, chances are that one out of every two people will be diagnosed at some point in their life. Covering yourself in the event of illness or disability is an essential part of financial independence.

Women who have put off saving, or those whose financial lives were derailed by divorce or a spouse’s death, may feel that retirement is just a pipe dream. While it’s true that building a sizable nest egg gets harder as you get older, it doesn’t mean that women should give up. Even those who are late to the retirement savings game can take steps to enjoy a more secure future. Planning to work longer, cutting discretionary spending, and even exploring Golden Girls-style living arrangements, can all be ways for single women who are behind in their savings to get back on track for retirement.

Helping women increase self-esteem and confidence

Scientists agree that half our personality comes from our gene pool and the other half comes from life experiences. Part of our brain is assigned to negative thinking which I call the ‘worry wart’ part of our brain – the anterior cingulate cortex – and in women it’s actually larger and more influential than in men. This is one of the many reasons why women doubt themselves and their abilities, lack confidence and self-esteem, and think they are too fat/too thin/not pretty enough/not good enough to ask for that promotion. The good news is that our brains can be retrained – I am living proof!

I hold workshops and discussion groups encouraging women to seek a career in financial planning. Women make great financial advisers and leaders. Extensive research in a Harvard Business Review article of 7,280 business leaders by Zenger Folkman consultants shows that women are better than men at empathy – sensing the thoughts and feelings of others and responding in appropriate ways. Women also value reciprocal relationships more highly than men. In a world that favours leadership based on skills of personal interaction rather than authority, women have a head start.

The majority of people I talk with make the assumption that women will excel at nurturing competencies such as developing others, inspiring and motivating, relationship building, collaboration and teamwork. Although these areas are strong female characteristics, the competencies where women show the largest positive differences are actually initiative, integrity, honestly and a drive for results, which are not nurturing competencies.

Disclaimer: Please note that this information is of a general nature only and have been provided without taking account of your objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this, you should consider whether the information is appropriate in light of your particular objectives, financial situation and needs.