But women who leave investing decisions wholly to their husbands could be making a serious financial mistake. After all, most women ultimately find themselves on their own, often because they become widowed or divorced.
If you're married, ask your husband about each stock, bond, mutual fund and retirement account you own together — and any he owns separately. Get him to tell you how much each is worth and which brokerage, mutual fund company or employer savings plan holds the investments. If he owns investments separately, check to see whether you are listed as his beneficiary.
Having this information will help you assess your retirement prospects, and it will protect you if you divorce or your husband dies. Brette Sember, author of The Divorce Organizer and Planner, says women also need to know where all the paperwork for these investments is located and have access to it.
Three specialty websites are great places to begin:
Every investment carries some risk. But in general, the riskier the investment (that is, the higher the odds that you could lose money), the greater its potential return. Stocks tend to be riskier than bonds, and stocks in small companies tend to be riskier than stocks in larger companies.
Don't take more risks than you can afford, or that you're comfortable with at this stage of your life. Walker-Green says that women in their 50s need to focus on preserving their money more than looking for maximum returns. "A 50-year-old is really trying to play catch-up," she says.
Find a Financial Adviser
You can certainly invest on your own, but many people just starting out prefer to work with a financial adviser, like a certified financial planner or a retirement planner. A pro can help answer questions about whether ther investments you’re considering are appropriate for you, as well as any questions you have about the markets.
You could find potential financial planners nearby by searching the web directory of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. Or ask your friends for referrals. If you’re going through a divorce or have recently become a widow, you might also ask your divorce attorney or estate lawyer for recommendations.
If you have a job that offers a retirement savings plan like a 401(k), but you've never taken advantage of it, this is where you should start. "You want to make sure you contribute to your 401(k), at least to the extent that your employer matches your funds," says Barbara Walker-Green of Advanced Wealth and Retirement Planning Concepts in Houston. The employer match is essentially free money.