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An age-by-age guide: Key financial questions every woman should ask

Use our answers to help you take charge of your financial future


YOUR MONEY SHOULD BE WORKING HARD to help you create a secure financial future. That’s true for everyone — but maximizing your financial power is even more important if you’re a woman. According to Lorna Sabbia, head of Retirement & Personal Wealth Solutions at Bank of America, women need to take several unique factors into account as they plot out their financial futures: the likelihood they won’t be paid as highly as their male counterparts, possible career breaks to take care of family, higher healthcare costs and a good chance of a longer retirement due to the greater life expectancy of women than men.


“For all these reasons,” Sabbia says, “women should pay careful attention to every financial decision they make.” Use the following questions — and answers — as a starting point for thinking about how you can seize the opportunities available to you and put your money to best use at every stage of your life.

Your 20s and 30s


Your 20s and 30s are critical years for saving toward your retirement. Starting to save and invest as early as possible allows your money the greatest amount of time to compound — which is perhaps the most important factor in accumulating enough to retire comfortably.

How do I get comfortable with — and knowledgeable about — investing?

My employer offers a 401(k) plan — how much of my salary do I need to put away for my future?

If I marry, should I keep my finances separate from my spouse’s?

Can I afford to be a stay-at-home parent for a while? Will that hurt my career and my future financial security?

Your 40s and 50s


During your 40s and 50s, life is whizzing ahead, both personally and professionally. You may be married, raising young children, managing the household finances, funding college tuitions, paying a mortgage and tending to a demanding career. How can you best plan for potential needs later in life and take advantage of opportunities to advance your progress toward your life goals?

At this stage of my financial life, I feel like I could benefit from working with a financial advisor. How do I find one I can trust?

How can I put aside money for my child’s education while still saving for my own retirement?

My marriage is shaky — are there financial moves I should make right now, just in case?

What’s the best way to care for my elderly parents without jeopardizing my own financial security?

60 and beyond


At this stage, perhaps you’re eyeing retirement, ramping up travel or time with grandchildren, pursuing hobbies, starting your own small business or getting involved in philanthropic endeavors that help you give back and find meaning.

Could it help me financially to continue working past the traditional retirement age?

When should I apply to receive my Social Security benefits?

Should I consider my future healthcare costs when planning my retirement?

What if I become a widow? How can I help ensure that I’ll be financially secure as I move forward alone?

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1 Carolina Aragão, “Gender pay gap in U.S. hasn’t changed much in two decades,” Pew Research Center, March 1, 2023.

2 Beth Klongpayabal, “45 percent of parents still cover costs for their adult children,”, March 22, 2023.

3 U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Retirement Security: Women Still Face Challenges,” July 2012.

4 Richard W. Johnson, et al, “Lifetime Employment-Related Costs to Women of Providing Family Care,” Urban Institute, February 2023.

5 The National Bureau of Economic Research Conference Report, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, editors, “Women Working Longer: Increased Employment at Older Ages,” University of Chicago Press, April 2018.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Civilian labor force participation rate by age, sex, race and ethnicity,” September 8, 2022.

7 HealthView Services, “Addressing the Women’s Longevity Gap,” 2020.

8 Administration for Community Living, “How much care will you need?”, February 18, 2020.

9 U.S. Census Bureau, “Marital Status of the Population 15 Years and Older,” 2022.


Investing involves risk. There is always the potential of losing money when you invest in securities.


Merrill, its affiliates, and financial advisors do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your legal and/or tax advisors before making any financial decisions.


Discussion of Social Security is general in nature, is intended for informational purposes only, and is not all-encompassing. The circumstances surrounding each situation differ, and additional eligibility requirements or restrictions may apply.


This material should be regarded as general or educational information on healthcare/Medicare considerations and is not intended to provide specific healthcare/Medicare advice. If you have questions regarding your particular situation, please contact your legal or tax advisor.


Before you invest in a Section 529 plan, request the plan’s official statement and read it carefully. The official statement contains more complete information, including investment objectives, charges, expenses and risks of investing in the 529 plan, which you should consider carefully before investing. You should also consider whether your home state or your beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other state benefits such as financial aid, scholarship funds and protection from creditors that are only available for investments in such state's 529 plan. Section 529 plans are not guaranteed by any state or federal agency.

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