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Planning for Career Interruptions

Summary

Throughout the course of their professional lives, many women face career interruptions, both expected and unexpected. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has had an outsized (and mostly negative) impact on many women. Creating a financial plan and investing early gives women the ability to navigate these periods of life with minimal financial stress. Whatever your life circumstances, taking charge of your finances can give you financial independence and the power to make the life decisions you want to make.

COVID-19’s disproportional impact on women’s lives

To all my fellow women: I see you.

Mothers, spouses, partners, caregivers, executives, business owners, professional strivers. It’s been over a year now since the pandemic has changed our lives. Unfortunately, for women, COVID-19 interruptions have affected our lives in more negative ways and amplified existing gaps impacting women. You may have seen the headlines that women accounted for a large portion of the jobs lost in December1 and sadly, the trend of job losses continued with the new year, with about 275,000 women leaving the workforce2 in January.

The COVID-19 recession has had the worst effects on working women. The services sector (leisure and hospitality, education and health services) where women tend to make up the majority of the workforce, was hit especially hard by the pandemic. And since women often take on the caretaker role for their families, the closures of schools and daycares have placed considerable pressure on women, leading many to drop out of the workforce.

 

More women are experiencing career interruptions due to the pandemic

If you have had to pause your career to care for your family or loved ones because of the pandemic, you are not alone. If your partner or spouse has lost his/her job and you’re now supporting the family financially or having to reenter the workforce, you are not alone. If the pandemic has you pivoting from a corporate career to starting a business or freelance career, you are not alone.

This pandemic has changed so much of our lives and the way we live. Perhaps you have lost family members due to the coronavirus. Maybe your living arrangements look different with new (or old) family members living in your house. In my house, we have a new baby and my sister is staying with us—so we can empathize! All these micro events have made us reexamine our expectations and be flexible about big and small changes that impact us.

 

Importance of having a financial plan

While you may be feeling a mix of emotions, one of the best ways you can regain confidence and peace of mind is to make a plan. Having a financial plan in place can help you feel prepared for life’s expected and unexpected events (like COVID-19). If you don’t yet have a financial plan, it’s never too late to get started. It’s challenging to prepare for anything in life without having an idea of what you are preparing for. Just as you wouldn’t plan or pack for a vacation without knowing something about your destination and what the weather will be like during your travels, you shouldn’t face your future without proper planning.

Your financial plan serves the purpose of moving you toward your goals, bringing together your life story, your ambitions, your dreams, and your assets into one comprehensive plan. Your plan should include your vision for your financial future (being as specific as possible) and take into account your career, life, and other personal aspirations. A comprehensive wealth plan incorporates investments, taxes, trust and estate planning, budgeting, and financial planning for big life goals (like retirement and funding your child’s education). If you work with an advisor, you have a partner who will listen to uncover your financial goals, prepare and analyze your balance sheet, manage your investments, income taxes, retirement, estate plan, and your child’s education plans, and identify potential risks so that you can keep more of your wealth and attain Economic Freedom.

If you already have a plan, it’s possible that there have been changes to your financial plan (new baby and more family members in the house). In times of change, it’s a good idea to review your financial plan to make sure your plan is still aligned with your goals. Maybe your goals have changed. Are you taking a break from your career? Or reentering the workforce after some time away? Talk to your advisor about how your plan can accommodate these changes.

 

Know what, why, and how you’re investing

It’s important to have an understanding around your investment strategy and a plan in place for unforeseen/unexpected events. Every woman should understand and be involved in their investment decisions. Here are three questions you should be able to answer about your investment allocation:

  • How are you invested? The mix of stocks, bonds, and cash in your portfolio will largely shape your investment returns over time. Within that asset allocation, you also need to ensure you are properly diversified across geographic regions.
  • Why are you invested this way? There should be clear connections between your investment selections, your tolerance for risk, and your long-range objectives. Revisiting these choices with your financial advisor can help ease stress and lead to better decision-making.
  • Do you believe in this plan? Myriad events and circumstances in life can potentially take our focus off the big picture (like retirement, estate planning, or other future goals). If you find yourself faced with a particularly uncertain season of life and/or questioning your plan, this is a great time to reach out to your advisor for support and reassurance.

 

Whatever your life circumstances, take charge of your finances

Women are busier than ever with the pandemic. Our free time is at a premium and everyone working remotely or schooling remotely at home, has had boundaries blur between work and personal life. If you are dealing with changes (as most of us are), here are some tips to help you cope and thrive.

  • Starting a new job or leaving an old one? Don’t forget about your 401(k), healthcare coverage, stock options/grants, and unemployment benefits.
  • Have you welcomed back your older kids or brought other family members into your house? COVID-19 has changed living arrangements for a lot of us (myself included). This can translate into higher food bills, utilities, and other unexpected expenses. It may be worthwhile to track your spending to understand if and how these changes may impact your financial plan.
  • If you’re caring for your parents or other loved ones who require special care, you know how important advanced planning is to giving your loved ones proper care. Whether it’s having powers of attorney (that gives someone you choose the power to act on your behalf when you’re unable to do so) or healthcare directives (a legal document that specifies what actions should be taken when you’re unable to make decisions for yourself due to illness of incapacity), it’s critical to have these documents in place before you need them.
  • Firm up or revisit your own estate plan. As we have seen with the coronavirus, we cannot anticipate when life comes at us. Just as you would want your parents or loved ones to provide you with direction on how they want decisions made for them on their behalf, it’s important to plan ahead for yourself. As caregivers ourselves, it’s important to prioritize self-care.

For women, financial independence is power. It’s the power to live our lives on our terms, power to start a business, power to make a career switch, power to decide to stay home with children or take care of aging parents, power to face unprecedented times. Creating a financial plan and being involved in your investment decisions will set you on the path to prepare for interruptions and achieve financial freedom.

My fellow women, I see you. You have value. You have power.

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Footnotes:

1 “A year ago, women outnumbered men in the U.S. workforce, now they account for 100% of jobs lost in December,” cnbc.com, 01/11/21.
2 “About 275,000 women left workforce in January in ‘critical’ pandemic trend, experts say,” nbcnews.com, 02/06/21.

Mercer Advisors Inc. is the parent company of Mercer Global Advisors Inc. and is not involved with investment services. Mercer Global Advisors Inc. (“Mercer Advisors”) is registered as an investment advisor with the SEC. The firm only transacts business in states where it is properly registered or is excluded or exempted from registration requirements.

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