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Top Questions Women Ask

We’re engaged! What financial issues should we discuss before we get married?

Question 1 of 8

First, make sure the two of you are on the same page about finances before getting married. As part of this conversation, you both should disclose if you have assets or debts you’re bringing into the marriage. More than half of married couples report carrying debt into the relationship1. If there are substantial assets or debts, you may want to consider a pre-nuptial agreement to specify who is responsible. Also discuss how you both want to manage finances going forward. Do you want to combine your assets? Open/use a joint bank account and credit cards? Or do you want to keep your finances separate? There is no right answer, but you should agree on how intertwined your finances will be. Once you start the dialogue about money, it’s important to keep that going. There will be many financial issues you both will face (for example, helping aging parents, having kids, relocating for a new job, saving for retirement) and having an open line of communication is key to a successful marriage.

We are having a baby! How can we best prepare financially for our new arrival?

Question 2 of 8

Congratulations! First, review your health insurance plan to make sure you understand what maternity benefits are covered and what your out-of-pocket costs will be. Review your company’s family leave policy to determine how much of your time will be covered and for how long. Next, talk with your partner about who will take care of the baby and coordinate any maternity/paternity leave. Draft up a new post-baby budget including all related expenses you can think of (like childcare, baby equipment, diapers, clothing, etc.). Estimates are okay; you want to get a sense of what your cash flow will look like. With your partner, compare this new budget to your current one and make adjustments as needed. Education costs continue to accelerate, so it’s never too early to start saving for your child’s education, whether it’s through a 529 plan, custodial account or a savings account. Make sure to update your estate plans as well, adding potential guardians for your child and updating beneficiaries information for your life and disability insurance policies.

I am thinking about staying home with the kids. What are some issues that should be considered in making this decision?

Question 3 of 8

Every family needs a budget, but a budget is crucial when one of you decides to forgo a paycheck. While you may need to cut costs and make sacrifices, there are two things you shouldn’t stop doing: paying off debt and saving for retirement. Also, life insurance coverage is essential for both of you, whether you’re working or not. Many people wrongly assume that stay at home parents don’t need life insurance because they no longer have a salary. But if the working spouse dies, it’s likely that the other spouse will need to start working and someone else will need to take care of the children. Life insurance can provide that critical support in times of need. Same goes for disability insurance; the working spouse should get coverage as it can provide financial stability with unexpected situations, like an injury or serious illness. It also makes sense to set up an account to cover emergencies; generally speaking, you want to have enough money to cover three months of living expenses.

My parents are getting older and may need some help. How can I prepare to care for my aging parents?

Question 4 of 8

These can be tough conversations to have with your parents. One way you could start a conversation with your parents would be to bring up your own estate planning needs for your family. You can also bring in a trusted third party, like the family financial advisor or a close friend of your parents, to help you broach the topic with your parents. Here are some questions you can ask:

  • Who are your advisors and how do I contact them?
  • Do you have a will and these other essential incapacity documents (like powers of attorney and healthcare directives)?
  • Are your beneficiaries up to date?
  • Where can I find your financial accounts information and other important files (like insurance policies and tax returns)?
  • What kind of long-term care would you like to receive? How do you envision your memorial service?

Family meetings might also serve as a good forum for having discussions about your parents’ estate planning needs. Read more about family meetings here.

I know retirement planning is important. How can I maximize my retirement savings?

Question 5 of 8

Kudos to you for thinking ahead! The data supports your instincts around retirement planning:

  • Women typically live longer than men (81 years vs. 76 years)2
  • Women have lower cumulative lifetime earnings3
  • Women have fewer years to save due to time out from the workforce to be caregivers4

So what can you do?

  • Take advantage of your work retirement plan and save as much as you can. If your company offers a matching contribution, make sure to save at least that amount. Don’t give up free money!
  • If you’re married but not working, you can still save for retirement with a spousal IRA. Your spouse must have taxable income and the combined IRA contribution amounts can’t be more than the taxable amount reported on your joint tax return.
  • Review what your estimated Social Security benefits will be when you retire. Each year you hold off on collecting your benefits after your full retirement age (which is somewhere between 66 and 67 years currently), you will boost your payments by 8% for life.

I want to make sure my children are financially responsible. What are some ways I can encourage good habits?

Question 6 of 8

First and foremost, have the conversation. 22% of parents have never talked to their kids about finances5 and the silence can turn money into a forbidden topic. Talking to your kids about money can help instill good financial habits that can last a lifetime. Financial conversations with your children should include your family’s values on the best way to use money. Is saving important to you? Share an example of how you saved to pay for a first car and how you felt when you got the keys. If you strive to live on a budget and not carry debt, talk about how living within your means helps you worry less. Big on philanthropy? Discuss why certain causes are meaningful to you and how the money you give impacts the world and other people. Even if you don’t share actual dollar amounts, they will understand the decisions you made and the thoughtful consideration you give to how to handle your finances. Read about six ways you can teach your daughters about money.

My spouse passed away and I don’t know where to begin to get my life back in order.

Question 7 of 8

Losing your spouse is an emotionally difficult time that can make managing financial tasks feel almost impossible. Ask for help if you can, whether it’s from a family member, close friend or your advisor. Here are some initial steps to consider:

  • Gather all relevant documents, such as: will/trust, life insurance policies, birth certificate, marriage certificate, death certificate (order at least 12 from the funeral home as you will need them to claim benefits), your spouse’s Social Security card, investment account statements and retirement/pension plan statements.
  • Talk with your estate planning attorney to review your spouse’s will/trust and address beneficiary distributions.
  • Contact financial institutions and begin changing the name on the accounts as needed.
  • Notify the Social Security Administration of your spouse’s passing to claim the death benefit and see if your spousal/survivor benefits need to be adjusted.
  • Send a letter to all three credit bureaus to get copies of your spouse’s credit reports to make sure you’re aware of all existing debts.
  • File claims for any outstanding medical care benefits with your spouse’s health insurance provider.

My spouse and I are separating. What can I do to take control of my finances during this chaotic time?

Question 8 of 8

Divorce can be emotionally draining and painful. While dealing with finances might be the last thing you want to do, it’s important to take steps to prepare and protect yourself. Here are some initial steps to consider.

  • Gather your financial records; being organized now will save you time and money. Make copies of documents and store them in a secure place that only you have access to.
  • Start putting money away for legal and other professional fees. You also need to cover your day-to-day living expenses, keeping in mind that the divorce process can take much longer and cost more than anticipated.
  • Open new accounts, preferably at institutions where you don’t have your joint accounts.
  • Get a copy of your credit report so you can monitor your credit and make sure joint debt is not being accrued on existing accounts.
  • Change your will, healthcare directives, and beneficiaries information. You likely don’t want your soon-to-be ex to make medical decisions on your behalf or inherit your assets. You can revise your estate planning documents when your divorce is finalized.

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Kara Duckworth, CFP®, CDFA®

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Susan Travis, CFP®, AEP®, CTFA

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Tracey Turko, CFP®, MSFP, MPAS℠

Meet some of our advisors.
Susan Travis, CFP®, AEP®, CTFA

My favorite part of working with clients is helping them see their dreams come true. As a wealth manager, I get to hear about their ideal futures and help them make those dreams a reality. When my clients achieve a goal and I’m invited to share in the celebration or when clients rely on me to work with them through difficult times, this makes my job worthwhile. I love being a resource for my clients. Read more about Kara Duckworth here.

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Why is Women and Wealth So Important to Us?

Nearly two-thirds of women are breadwinners and the majority are at the helm of family financial decisions. Yet women fall behind men in overall financial wellness. Upwards of 90% feel completely unprepared for retirement. Beyond the wage gap, which translates into fewer retirement dollars, women are not actively investing as much as their male counterparts because many feel misunderstood by financial companies. This has tremendous impact on their financial success, as income and savings alone cannot grow wealth the way investing does. At Mercer Advisors, we aim to educate and empower women to achieve economic freedom. By understanding our clients’ unique needs, we provide a tailored client experience. This customized approach is delivered by a network of experienced advisors. Our culture of women raising each other up through our InvestHERS initiative attracts advisors, resulting in nearly twice the number of female financial advisors as the industry average. Mercer Advisors ‘gets it’ and is here to help.

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Mercer Advisors Convenes 2nd Annual “InvestHERs” Summit

Dec 01, 2020

Held virtually over three days, over 100 women professionals at Mercer Advisors gathered to hear from industry luminaries like Carrie Schwab-Pomeranz.

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2019 Barron’s, Advisors who wish to be ranked fill out a 102-question survey about their practice. We verify that data with the advisors’ firms and with regulatory databases and then we apply our rankings formula to the data to generate a ranking. The formula features three major categories of calculations: (1) Assets (2) Revenue (3) Quality of practice.

2019 Private Asset Management (PAM), Mercer Advisors was awarded the Best Private Wealth Manager for firms with over $5 billion dollars in assets under management. Mercer Advisors was selected as the winner from among eight shortlisted entrants. The PAM Awards, organized by Private Asset Management magazine, are designed for investment professionals and wealth advisors, operating within the private asset management industry and are held annually. Candidates are invited to submit responses in several categories to demonstrate developments to their business model, financial progress in business performance and service offerings. Selection is determined by growth in clients and employees, client satisfaction, and product Innovation over the course of the previous year. Winners are determined by an independent panel of industry experts and the PAM editorial team. For more information on Private Asset Management (PAM), visit

The Women’s Choice Award, The Women’s Choice Award Financial Advisor program was created by WomenCertified Inc., the Voice of Women, in an effort to help women make smart financial choices. The program is based on 17 objective criteria associated with providing quality service to women clients such as credentials, experience and a favorable regulatory history, among other factors. The inclusion of a financial advisor within the Women’s Choice Award Financial Advisor network should not be construed as an endorsement of the financial advisor by WomenCertified or its partners and affiliates and is no guarantee as to future investment success. Women’s Choice Award® Financial Advisors and Firms represent less than 1% of financial advisors in the U.S. As of October 2018, of the 463 considered for the Women’s Choice Award, 108 were named Women’s Choice Award Financial Advisors/Firms., A panel of independent judges determined the 2019 Industry Award winners. Criteria included demonstrable impact on their firm, the industry, and wealth management in general.

Investment News, InvestmentNews qualified 2,206 firms headquartered in the United States based on data reported on Form ADV to the Securities and Exchange Commission as of May 1, 2019.

2019 Financial Times Top Registered Investment Advisors, The Financial Times 300 Top Registered Investment Advisers is an independent listing produced annually by the Financial Times (June 2019). The FT 300 is based on data gathered from RIA firms, regulatory disclosures, and the FT’s research. The listing reflected each practice’s performance in six primary areas: assets under management, asset growth, compliance record, years in existence, credentials and online accessibility. This award does not evaluate the quality of services provided to clients and is not indicative of the practice’s future performance. Neither the RIA firms nor their employees pay a fee to The Financial Times in exchange for inclusion in the FT 300. To select the FT 300, we started by reaching out to the largest independent RIAs across the U.S. that have a minimum of $300 million in assets. To make sure the list was relevant to affluent individuals reading the FT, we required that no more than 75% of a practice’s assets be institutional. Qualified RIAs then filled out an online application, and were scored on several factors, including AUM, AUM growth rate and compliance record. Selection is independent and objective, and no money is exchanged as part of the process.

AdvisoryHQ developed a breakthrough “Top-Down Advisor Selection Methodology” that is based on a wide range of filters including fiduciary duty, independence, transparency, level of customized service, history of innovation, fee structure, quality of services provided, team excellence, and wealth of experience. More information on their methodology can be found here.

The Forbes ranking of America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors, developed by SHOOK Research, is based on an algorithm of: qualitative data, such as telephone and in-person interviews, a review of best practices, service and investing models, and compliance records; as well as quantitative data, like revenue trends and assets under management. All advisors have a minimum of seven years’ experience. Portfolio performance is not a criteria due to varying client objectives and lack of audited data. Neither Forbes nor SHOOK receive a fee in exchange for rankings.

These awards should not be construed by clients or prospective clients as a guarantee that they will experience a certain level of results if Mercer Advisors is engaged, or continues to be engaged, to provide investment advisory services, nor should it be construed as a current or past endorsement of Mercer Advisors by any of its clients.






*By 2020, women will control $72.1 trillion globally. (source:, “Women’s Wealth Growing Faster Than Men’s”, 2016)

** Nearly two-thirds (62.8%) of American women are breadwinners or co-breadwinners. (source: The Shriver Special Report, “A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything,” 2009)

***95% of women will be their family’s primary financial decision maker during their lifetime. (source: Family Wealth Advisors Council, “Women of Wealth”, 2011)