Women are more likely than men to underrate themselves when it comes to investing. Yet women are usually in charge of household budgets, are more willing to save for the long-term and are better bargain hunters.

So why do we feel uncomfortable when it comes to taking charge of our investments, be they a 401(k)-retirement plan, an Individual Retirement Account or a stock portfolio?

Friends give me these reasons:

 
 

“I am just not interested… that’s something my spouse takes care of.”

“We like our financial guy… he seems to be doing a good job for us.”

“I met with my financial adviser, but I never asked questions. I thought we were on track.”

“I feel over my head when it comes to the stock market and bonds. I’m clueless.”

Yet most women over 60 will someday be financially on their own either because of divorce or the death of a spouse. Why not get involved now, take charge of your finances and be ready for the future when you may need to manage on your own? Here are 5 ways to take charge.

Ask About Investment Management Fees

If you still are on the job, make sure you are getting the best performance from your 401(k) plan or Individual Retirement Account. Annual management fees should be 1 percent or lower.

If retired and living on your nest egg, the same goes. The goal is to make your money last as long as you do. Mutual fund management fees are a huge factor in how much you accumulate from compound reinvesting during your work life and how much your nest egg will keep earning for you in your later years.

Check Up on Financial Advice Costs

Are you using a financial adviser to guide your investment strategy? Ask about upfront commissions on investment products or funds offered to you. Anything more than 1 percent deserves a clear explanation.

Why not go with dividend-paying individual stocks or low-cost index funds? The reality is that most “managed” funds do not have the performance of a cheaper S&P 500 Index fund but instead tend to have higher management costs and weaker performance. That’s a big negative in the longer-term.

Banish Your Insecurities

Investing is rewarding. Start learning by doing. Wealth coach Deborah Owens gives women an “F” when it comes to finances because of the myth that “financing and crunching numbers are too complicated.”

Owens encourages women to get beyond the fear and take on “calculated risk” with their money. Sitting on cash is not an investment strategy.

To get the most bang for the buck, put time into improving your investment knowledge and skills, ask questions about management fees and commissions, and don’t just hope for the best without bringing your retirement picture into focus.

“Your ability to build wealth is directly related to your ability to take calculated risks,” Owens says. That’s both now and in retirement.

Build a Portfolio

Set up an individual online investment account. Do the research. Start small. Use low-cost online brokerage firms. Put money into an S&P 500 stock index fund and/or a few blue-chip publicly traded companies with a stock dividend of about 3 percent.

Reinvest the dividends. Don’t panic in a market downturn. The reinvested dividend money is buying more shares at a cheaper price! Meanwhile, keep an eye on business news. Shifting markets may require adjustments. The goal is to balance risk with a record of performance over time.

Candace Bahr and Ginita Wall with Wife.org encourage women to take on financial responsibility and remind us that for most, “A man is not a financial plan.” In their “Five Steps to Building a Portfolio,” they recommend reading “how to” books on saving and investing, using rating reports and reading financial news to gain confidence.

Get Real About Retirement Income

Figure out where your income in retirement will come from by first looking at your Social Security account. What are your benefits at 62, 66 or 70? What income will you have from tax-deferred retirement savings or investment income? Will you inherit money from your mother?

Will you work longer to delay retirement and increase your Social Security benefit? Can you catch-up by putting more money in your nest egg? Answers to these questions will help you know where you stand and what you must do before quitting the job. The trick is to bring household expenses in line with expected retirement income.

Plenty of women have made the transition from work to retirement. I see them managing their money, traveling, starting up new relationships and getting the most from life. Taking charge of their finances is a key element of their confident future.

Are your finances in order? Who manages them? Have you ever wanted to learn more about investing and how it can improve your life in retirement? Please join the discussion below!

Julia AndersonJulia Anderson is founder-contributor at www.sixtyandsingle.com where she writes about money and life after 60. An award-winning financial and business news writer, Julia is the Smart Money columnist for the Portland Oregon Tribune. She also appears in the Smart Money YouTube series from TVCTV in Beaverton, Oregon.

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