Think about creating a family financial album, and other tips, from Boston’s Top Woman Financial Advisor, Mary Mullin
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Merrill Lynch wealth management advisor Mary Mullin, a resident of Sudbury who was recognized this summer as one of America’s Top 100 Women Advisors by Barron’s Magazine – and the top Woman Financial Advisor in Boston.
Ms. Mullin’s group of clients consists largely of women and couples, and after more than three decades working at Merrill, she has seen the impact that the sharing of financial duties can have on an individual’s understanding of a family’s financial condition.
Having raised four kids as a single, working mom, she also intimately understands the challenges of juggling the management of a household budget with the need for long-term financial planning.
I asked her to identify the top three lessons she’s learned from her experiences, and would like to share with women as they organize their finances, either alone or with a partner. She came up with more than that. Looking at all of her comments, though, I think you’ll agree that her insights can be universally applied:
1. Remember, knowledge is power
You don’t have to talk to your advisor every day, but you do have to know the plan. Know who the financial advisor, accountant and estate planning attorneys are and their phone numbers, and where all the documents are. Organize a will, a healthcare proxy, and a durable power of attorney. Understand where the checkbooks are and how to access everything. I want them to know the big picture, and know where everything is.
We have something that Merrill’s created called a “Family Album.” It’s really this book that has everything in it. If there was a fire or something happens, it has lists of where assets are, who to call – it’s one concise thing (that has everything organized) with who to call and what to do.
2. Prepare for the unexpected
Sometimes life doesn’t go as you planned. What if something happens to the husband and now all of a sudden the wife is in charge?
One thing I always do with widows and divorced women is take it slow. There are no decisions that have to be made in five minutes. Other than the things that have to be done, I try to have the women not make any big decisions while they are in a state of flux or are still grieving. I want them to be comfortable and take their time as they make decisions. Whatever plan was put in place by a husband should work for a family. Don’t get worried that everything has to be done at once because it doesn’t.
In such challenging times, make sure you have access to cash. I once had a client who had all of their accounts in the husband’s name. If he passes away, how is she going to pay her bills? There should be a pool of money that both have a checkbook on, even if he’s the one who assumes the main task of writing the checks for the family.
3. Disability can be more devastating than death or sickness
From a financial planning point of view, disability can be more devastating than death and sickness. If someone passes away you have life insurance. If someone who is the breadwinner is suddenly out of work, what do you do?
If the wife has given up her career to take care of the kids and something happens to the husband, the wife should make sure there’s disability insurance. If someone is self-employed, I encourage people to consider purchasing a plan.
4. Make sure you have enough life insurance – for both spouses
Couples come in and have tons of life insurance on the husband and none on the wife. If she were to pass away, he may have to take a lower paying job that requires no travel, leave work altogether or hire someone to take care of the kids. Having insurance on a non-working spouse is just as important as on a working spouse.
5. Don’t be intimidated or frightened by financial planning. Speak up and ask for help.
When it comes to financial literacy, don’t be afraid. You know more than you think. A
lot of planning boils down to common sense things. Live within your means. Save early and a little each paycheck. These are things people deal with every day, whether they’re managing a business or a household.
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