Plan A: Why Women Need To Lead Their Financial Futures
The P word trips most women up concerning their finances, and it’s the word many fear: Plan.
Beth Kljajic, a Chicago-based financial services professional with New York Life Insurance, says most women from Millennials to Baby Boomers are not prepared financially for the costs of retirement or healthcare later in life. Kljajic is doing everything she can to help them change their financial futures.
“Women don’t think about this enough,” Kljajic says. “Early is the name of the game.”
Indeed. According to CBNC, “The latest CNBC and Acorns Invest in You Savings Surveyfound that 20% of married men said ‘their partner or their spouse’ when answering that question” about who handles financial concerns. “But women, at 32%, are much more likely to rely on their significant other. The survey, conducted for CNBC by SurveyMonkey, polled more than 2,300 adults in March about various aspects of financial wellness.”
It is why Kljajic is keen on advising women—as well as men—on healthcare and financial needs for later in life.
Growing up in Arlington Va., Kljajic says she went to college on the six-year plan and graduated in 1980 from University of Central Florida, and went to work in IT as a programmer. She has spent 30 years as an expert and consultant in accounting systems, tech and is a QuickBooks ProAdvisor.
“2019 is not a lot different in tech than it was then,” she says, as tech continues to be male-dominated.
Starting her own computer consulting company in 1985, she was president of the Chicago chapter of National Association of Women Business Owners in 1992.
With Enron as one of her clients (“that was not particularly helpful in 2008”), Kljajic went back to school to earn a masters in Medicare Finance from the University of Chicago, and received her degree in 2009.
She continued with her own consulting business until joining NY Life in 2018, specializing in retirement planning including long term care, keyperson policies/buy-sell and annuities.
The author of Landslide Love, a look at love and the indignities of growing older, Kljajic speaks around the country for The Conversation Project, as well as at AARP-sponsored events.
“My biggest complaint is for the vast majority of my women clients who are doctors, lawyers, or in finance, they rely on the men to do all of this,” Kljajic says, regarding financial planning.
Indeed, research bears out her observation.
“A recent poll by the wealth management division of UBS found that 85% of women manage everyday expenses, but only 23% take the lead when it comes to long-term financial planning. Even though women are more proactive with everyday household finances, it is critical that they also set themselves up for financial success in the future,” writes Susan John, managing director of financial planning and a private client advisor at F.L.Putnam Investment Management Co. and chair of the CFP Board of Standards, in U.S. News & World Report.
“Being more engaged with and vocal about finances not only increases women’s confidence, but also empowers them to sustain control of their financial lives over the long term – which is especially important as women continue to live longer than men,” John writes.
Younger women, including GenZers can also benefit from financial training, planning and literacy, Kljajic says. And it should be mandatory curriculum in high schools.
“You better understand what it really takes,” she says.
“Whether you take a class at the library, or you sit and look at budgets, as long as there is not just one person doing this, anything is better than nothing,” Kljajic says.
Indeed, financial security is a growing crisis for many Americans.
According to the Chicago Tribune, “In 10 years, more than half of middle-income Americans age 75 or older will not be able to afford to pay for yearly assisted living rent or medical expenses, according to a study published recently in Health Affairs.”
“The researchers estimated that the number of middle-income elders in the U.S. will nearly double, growing from 7.9 million to 14.4 million by 2029. They will make up the biggest share of seniors, at 43 percent. By 2029, more than half of the middle-income seniors will have annual financial resources of $60,000 or less, even if the equity in their homes is included. Projections put the average annual assisted living and medical expenses cost in 10 years at $62,000, meaning that a majority of the middle-income seniors then will not be able to afford an assisted living facility,” the Tribune reports.
Following a recent presentation Kljajic delivered in Indiana on long-term care to an audience of men and women, she says, “You could not believe how many men cry. The reason they cry is no one has ever talked to them about this. And all of a sudden you talk about what you’re afraid of.”
And while long-term financial planning affects everyone, she says it simply affects more women over time.
“One of the biggest issues here is women simply live longer,” Kljajic says.
“To help ensure women can comfortably navigate both short and long-term financial goals – such as enjoying their retirement years without the fear of outliving their savings – they need to start saving and investing, early and often,” John writes in U.S. News.
As a Baby Boomer woman herself, Kljajic says she can relate to the concerns of the women she advises. But she admits her approach is different than they might expect.
“I’m not soft and quiet,” Kjlajic says. “I am an in-your-face woman and I say I can guarantee you are going to die, so it is your choice of how are you going to live.”
“It doesn’t matter how much money you have, if you have not planned for this, it’s a disaster. And it’s more disastrous for women. What looks like an unlimited cash flow could end at any time,” she says.
But bringing in all the facts and getting the financial information in the open and planning budgets will help, she says. The good news is her daughter, who is 32, seems to be better prepared than many women in her own generation.
“They live differently. They plan more.”
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