Financial uncertainty and volatility caused by the COVID-19 pandemic highlight why women need to be prepared and proactive when it comes to their finances. Many of the challenges women face in everyday life, both at home and in the workplace, are amplified in times of crisis.

More than 75% of caregivers are women according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. As a result of school and daycare closures, women are bearing the brunt of increased demand for unpaid childcare. They are also more likely to be caretakers of elderly parents and other at-risk family members.

Women everywhere are having to adapt to new circumstances, even those who have not lost jobs as a result of the COVID-19 shutdowns. Many working women are now finding that they must balance the increased demands of adjusting to a new work-from-home environment, helping children with online school and the stresses that come with being the primary caregiver for the household. These increased caregiver demands can make it impossible for many women to continue working.

There are significant financial challenges for women who continue to work while balancing the increased demands of being a caregiver and those who have had to step out of the workforce to care for children or other family members.

Less time to focus on finances. It is always important for women to be actively involved with their finances. But when unexpected emergencies arise such as the recent pandemic, women in particular are more likely to be stretched thin with added caretaker responsibilities—and it often becomes all too easy for them to lose touch with their finances. Women in this situation are more likely to let financial planning slide or have someone else make all of the financial decisions for them.

Magnified gender pay gap. Women typically make less than men. And with most schools closed, many women will be forced to leave the workforce or reduce their hours to care for their children. Others will lose jobs due to business shutdowns caused by COVID-19. As a result, the difference in pay will likely become more stark, underscored by the fact that many were previously in a more precarious position to weather a job loss or reduction in pay because they already earned less and have less saved for a rainy day.

 

More difficult return to the workforce. Once things settle down and return to normal, there is a good chance that many women who had to leave the workforce to take on caregiver responsibilities will not get rehired—or if they do, it is likely that it will be for fewer hours and less pay. This could result in significant setbacks for a woman’s long-term financial security through reductions to social security benefits and retirement plan contributions—because her income will be lower and she will not be able to contribute as much to retirement savings.

While COVID-19 spreads in our world, our country and communities, many women feel a lack of control as they find themselves in a position where they are reacting to the news and circumstances around them. But there are ways that women can be proactive and take charge of their wealth—even during these unprecedented times.

Some things that women can do:

1. Prepare an updated financial statement to determine your current financial picture.

2. Educate yourself on pandemic-related stimulus legislation such as the CARES Act to ensure you are taking advantage of all applicable incentives.

3. Talk with your spouse, partner, children and other family members about your current financial situation. This can be a great opportunity to work together as a family toward shared financial goals and teach children healthy financial habits.

4. Review and update your estate planning documents.

5. Consider proactive tax planning that takes advantage of low market values and heightened volatility.

If accomplishing these items seems too overwhelming with current demands, it could be a good time to secure the help of a trusted advisor, who will be dedicated to proactively helping you achieve these and other financial goals.

Beth Mayfield, a senior wealth strategist in the Atlanta office of CIBC Private Wealth Management, works closely with clients and their advisors to develop and implement charitable, estate and wealth transfer planning strategies. 

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