First Financial Wealth Management

tools designed to enhance
your financial experience

Successful Women

WINTER 2014-2015

A “Golden Girls” guide to retirement

Sitcom sets an example of joyfully living the single life

A 1980s sitcom about four older, single women sharing a home in Miami has a message that still resonates today – your circumstances are what you make of them. The roommates (three widows and one divorcee) demonstrated creative ways to stretch a dollar and maintain a social life in retirement. Here are four things the ladies got right.

Create a social support system

The Golden Girls’ shared house showed how important companionship becomes as we age. In fact, taking on a roommate late in life is not uncommon. In 2013 more than a million single women 45 and older were living with a roommate who wasn’t a relative, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement. Could a retirement roommate be an option for you? Someone who can help you stay active and help enrich your life by sharing both financial and social resources?

Stay active

Whether they were tap-dancing the night away or sparkling in sequined workout gear, the Golden Girls (well, Dorothy, Blanche and Rose at least) kept in shape. That’s important because your physical health becomes more closely linked to financial health as you age.

Avoiding tobacco, exercising and eating a well-balanced diet are proven ways to cut your risk of developing heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

Find “second act” careers

The characters of the beloved sitcom never stayed unemployed for long, with jobs including substitute teacher, entrepreneur and crisis counselor. Bringing in a little income past retirement age will not only help your nest egg last longer, but could help you wait to claim Social Security, resulting in higher benefits.

Make the most of financial resources

The roommate arrangement helped the Golden Girls make ends meet and maintain their independence. With the average American woman age 65 and up living on $11,500 less than a man of similar age, that’s an important point. Whether you prefer to live alone or with loved ones, you should resolve to have a solid plan in place when it comes to financial and lifestyle decisions for your retirement.

Social Security: If you can delay claiming your benefit until after full retirement age, your check will increase. Widows and divorcees have more claiming options.

401(k): Challenge yourself to contribute as much as you can. If your employer matches contributions, make sure you set aside enough to get the maximum.

Long-term care insurance: If you find yourself needing skilled care over an extended period of time, this coverage can help in ways Medicare can’t.

Life insurance: Yes, singles need life insurance, too. Especially those with dependents. The right policy for you will take into account your income level, debt, assets and any dependents.

Will and healthcare directives: To ensure your wishes are carried out, including the transfer of your estate and how you want medical decisions made, you must document them.

Make the most of financial resources

Going it solo – whether by choice, divorce or widowhood – doesn’t mean you have to face every retirement decision on your own. Your financial advisor can go over the details with you and help you optimize your retirement for one.

The working mom’s back-to-college essentials

With preparation and persistence, multitasking mothers can make it to graduation

Here are a few secret weapons to help mothers successfully balance their careers, education and families.

  • A support system that includes friends, family, significant others, neighbors, babysitters and fellow students

    When they say it takes a village, they’re not kidding. If you’re serious about getting a degree, don’t be shy about asking for help and accepting it when it’s offered.

  • Creative financial solutions, including your own 529 savings plan

    Anxiety over the tuition bill is a huge issue for nontraditional students. Alleviate the worry by exploring student loans, scholarships, tax deductions and savings vehicles, like a 529 plan. Not only do these flexible, state-sponsored accounts provide a variety of investment options but withdrawals for qualified education expenses are tax-free. And, your state may provide an income-tax break* for contributing to a state-based 529. Bonus: If you don’t end up using all of the money in the account on your own education, you can change the beneficiary to a child or grandchild.

  • A brain that can function on little sleep and suppress unnecessary mommy guilt

    Multitasking is in every mother’s toolbox. Power through nights of little sleep and focus on the benefits a higher degree will deliver for your family. The diploma will be worth it, especially if you can parlay your education into a higher salary.

  • The ability to say no to extra obligations

    Give yourself a little break from things that are optional. Isn’t your future worth prioritizing?

  • Eyes that can speed-read and never get too tired to read a bedtime story

    There are a few smartphone apps that teach different methods of speed-reading if you’d like to give it a try.

  • The determination of a triathlete

    Taking on three challenging roles requires stamina. When you feel like giving up, think about the powerful example you’re setting for your kids. Whether you’re going back to school to build a better life, change careers or pursue a passion, you’re not only helping yourself – you’re paving the way for your children, too.

A well-earned diploma can help bring in more income over a lifetime and has a powerful return on investment in terms of quality of life. The key is to make the decision to upgrade your skills with a clear goal in mind and an honest assessment of your financial reality. If you are thinking of enrolling in a degree program, a financial advisor can help you figure out how to pursue your goals.

*Certain conditions may apply.

Upcycling is the process of turning unwanted materials or useless products into a quality new product with the added benefit of keeping what was once trash out of a landfill. It’s an evolution of recycling, which generally breaks down unwanted materials and turns them into similar new materials. On the other hand, upcycling can also lend itself to creating something more valuable than the original material or, at least, more unique.

This trend has grown over the years, reflecting a growing interest in environmentally friendly products at a reasonable cost. And websites, like etsy.com, have sprung up to showcase and sell these handmade items. Just three years ago, Etsy sellers tagged fewer than 8,000 items with the word “upcycled,” according to Wikipedia. As of September 2014, that number stood at more than 299,000.

Companies are exploring ways to make upcycling profitable, too. U.S.-based TerraCycle, one of the more prominent companies in the space, focuses on finding ways to create something new from discarded packaging or other materials that can’t be recycled. The company has turned worm waste into fertilizer and “trash” into bags, notebooks, clocks, clothing and countless other items. Some companies are creating garden and design materials to incorporate in upscale homes. For example, IceStone makes a durable, sustainable slab that mimics quarried stone but is made from recycled glass, cement and pigments.

Personal upcycling isn’t limited to craft projects. Consider the creativity and design that goes into making unique furniture, jewelry, and clothing that is more ultramodern than campy or shabby chic. For example, upcyclers have created chandeliers from old bicycle chains, modern chairs from the ends of old claw-footed bathtubs, and elegant dresses from discarded peanut candy wrappers.

The beauty is that just about anyone can create something new with a little ingenuity and a sewing machine or some power tools and paint. The results could range from useful to funky, from self-expression to an imaginative side business. Ultimately, it’s about creativity and reinvention as well as saving money and the environment.

For many people, it’s also a real way to create a quality piece at an affordable price. New graduates or college students, for example, may turn to upcycling to furnish their living spaces, decorating in a style that reflects who they are. More established families may consider the old-is-new trend to save money for other things, like investing or saving for a down payment.

Inspiration for upcycling projects abounds on the Internet. Sites like pinterest.com and inhabitat.com feature do-it-yourself projects, and many retail sites sell upcycled items.