Single women shouldn't shy away from planning for financial future

March 31, 1991|By Mary Rowland | Mary Rowland,New York Times News Service

Robyn S. Iskoe specializes in financial planning for th wealthy. She knows the ins and outs of pension plans, can interpret the fine print of the tax code and recite obscure estate-planning rules.

But when it comes to her own finances, Ms. Iskoe, 33, admits to a problem: For years, she put off the financial planning she knows is essential because she expected one day to be married and to do these things with her husband. Until recently, she lived in a studio apartment. And she has only recently begun to invest the way she urges clients to do. For years, she said, "I just let my money sit in a money-market fund."

The basics of sound financial planning apply to everyone, male and female, single and married. But financial planners say that psychological obstacles often get in the way of putting together -- and carrying out -- these plans.

Single young women are the ones most likely to get snagged by thoseobstacles, said Connie S. P. Chen, managing director at Richard A. Eisner & Co., a New York accounting firm. Unlike many young single men, who generally aim for financial security, young single women often put their financial lives on hold, Ms. Chen said. They fail to start an investment program, buy a home or begin retirement planning.

"Getting married is a big part of their life and a big goal," said Esther M. Berger, vice president at PaineWebber Inc. in Beverly Hills, Calif., and a specialist in financial planning for women. "These women have not opted not to marry; they just have not married yet. They are not at peace with it."

"In the early- to mid-40's, I see a turning point," Ms. Berger said. "Now they come in in a panic. They've lived their lives as though they will get married, but now they realize that they may never get married."

This is one of the most dangerous times for single women, planners say. The realization that they will not marry leaves them vulnerable because they have not planned. Now they become fearful about their financial future and become too conservative, Ms. Chen said, pinching pennies at a time when assertiveness is important. They are prone "to underutilize their capital, to invest too conservatively," she said.

In fact, these women have another 20-odd years of work ahead of them and if they are to earn the money they need for retirement, they need to put a portion of their money into riskier investments, such as stocks. Like everyone else, they should diversify, keeping some money in safe, liquid investments, too.

Of course, building a portfolio is the first step. Because single people often do not have the sort of financial safety nets that married couples do -- double salaries, health and pension benefits, for example -- it's important to start setting financial goals as early as possible.

Begin a systematic savings plan. Buy a home. Many singles argue thatit is harder for them to reach goals because they have only one income. But good planning and commitment to a financial goal make a difference.

Cheryl Creuzot, a Houston planner who specializes in planning for women, has clients with incomes ranging from $19,000 to $2 million a year. "If I had to put a bet on who will accomplish goals, I would pick the woman who makes $19,000," she said. "Maybe she can only put aside $50 or $100 a month, but she's very religious about accomplishing her goals. That makes the difference."

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