Q -- It seems that many of my 50-something women friends are single and often face financial challenges. Are there any trends or issues that are unique to single women when attempting to plan their financial futures? If so, what are some solutions to these issues?

The first is that almost 90 percent of American women will manage their own financial affairs -- usually toward the latter years of their life -- because of divorce or the death of their spouse.

Often the responsibility of managing investments, insurance, credit and other financial concerns will come at a very stressful time in a woman's life because of a death or divorce. This is not the best time to have this individual responsibility dropped in your lap. A simple suggestion is to become active and/or informed about the various financial issues while you are married so that this transition will not be as dramatic.

Be sure to review statements, investment letters and always be involved in any investment, retirement or insurance reviews with the various representatives. Know that it is the job of the representatives to help you understand any concerns or questions you might have. Most representatives will be very happy to review or answer questions. There is never a dumb question.

Another point is that women will generally live longer then their male counterparts. An American women younger than age 60 can expect to live into her 90s. It is possible with advances in medical technology that this life expectancy could be extended. This is important because your investments will have to last 30 years or more.

Social Security will provide around 25 percent to 30 percent of income needed for an adequate retirement. This shortfall will require additional individual savings as well as retirement plans. The problem is that women tend to be more conservative than men in their investment choices and thus run the risk of not having an adequate portfolio to last a lifetime. Be sure to inquire with your investment adviser about choices that will help grow your money into the future in order to meet your income needs during retirement years.

Women face several issues that tend to handicap achieving their financial goals. The role of caregiver for younger children and later with elderly parents can handicap earning potential for women, which can result in less money contributed to individual savings and various retirement plans.

I would suggest spousal IRA accounts for stay-at-home moms so that they can accumulate retirement savings without working outside of the home. I would also suggest the establishment of individual credit for women so that they will have a secure line of credit if ever faced with divorce or surviving a spouse because of death.

Current trends show that more women are enrolled in college than men. More small businesses, about 2-to-1, are being started by women. Women own 26 percent of U.S. companies today, employing more than 9 million workers.

This trend should help women become more financially independent as the years pass. It also should provide some of the solutions to past and current problems of financial security for women as they enter their retirement years.

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