Being Your Household’s CFO in Uncertain Times


By Sara

It’s no secret that women face different financial realities than those of men. In fact, the vast majority of today’s women, as well as the next generation of women, will be responsible for their own and their family’s finances at some point in time. In a recent study, Women & Co. found that 63% of women today currently serve as the “Chief Financial Officer” of their households. Of those women, 75% believe that in the future, their daughters will be the CFO of their own households. (Note: This story was originally written for Women & Co., a membership financial web site and part of Citi.)

Lisa Caputo, the CEO, and Linda Descano, a CFA and the president and COO of Women & Co., provide these financial tips to help women navigate this uncertain economy. In times like these, it’s essential to tune out the noise, stay focused and empower yourself with the knowledge and resources you need for long-term financial well-being:

Assess Your Financial Situation

Every woman’s financial situation is as unique as she is. It’s important to talk with someone who understands your personal situation—your goals, time frame, and risk tolerance. First, make sure you have a financial support network in place—including an attorney, accountant, and a financial advisor. If you don’t, ask your family and friends for recommendations. Women & Co. found that 72% of women are using a financial advisor for information, guidance or a second opinion. Remember—there is no single answer that will work for everyone. Find a plan and support network that works for you.

Plan for “Time-Out” Periods
Many women take time out from the workforce to care for children, aging parents, or spouses. Often, these time-outs result in reduced retirement savings and Social Security benefits. Meanwhile, with the average life expectancy for women being 80.4 years and that of men being 75.2 years (National Center for Health Statistics 2007), 90% of women find themselves outliving their spouse. Women can prepare for the unexpected by maintaining appropriate insurance coverage, and keeping their will, beneficiary designations, and other legal documents up to date. Start saving early, save more and, of course, plan carefully. 

Be a Role Model
Women & Co. found that 85% of women feel they would have been better off if they had known more about finances and investing earlier in life. Make sure your daughters and granddaughters get an early start by talking to them about money and saving now. 94% of women today are talking to their daughters about money, compared to 52% who discussed money with their own mothers. Money is the number one topic of discussion between mothers and daughters today, more than drinking, drugs, sex and politics. Join the conversation! 92% of today’s women believe they are positive financial role models for their own daughters. Help raise a more financially educated, powerful, confident generation of women by talking to them about money issues early on.

Stay Informed
Information is an important component of financial security. Three quarters of women consider themselves somewhat to very knowledgeable about finances. Are you one of them? As circumstances change, we need to re-educate ourselves based on whatever new realities we face, in order to make informed financial decisions. Women & Co. found that the top three most important resources for women are: a financial advisor, a spouse or partner, and research. Women also told Women & Co. that hard work and discipline are more important than education and luck when it came to financial success. Continue to seek out trusted sources of information that will provide guidance and tools, as well as the ongoing support you need to work towards your long-term financial goals.

Clarify Your Financial Goals
Assess where you are now financially by reviewing your net worth, credit score, and cash flow. Ask yourself, “Where do I want to be in one year, five years, or even twenty years?” Women & Co. found that women are confident about their retirement, with 62% believing their lives in retirement will be better than their mothers’. Work towards your financial goals, including retirement, by reviewing your finances at least once a year and making sure your savings and investment strategies are aligned with your goals.

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