Media Article

SISTERS clubs offer financial strategies, support

Women gather for book clubs, happy hours and Mary Kay makeup parties. Financial strategist Donna M. Phelan thinks they should meet to discuss retirement as well. Phelan wants women to create clubs, a safe environment, where they can share retirement knowledge and experiences. And ideally, they will develop investments and business ventures to support their later years of life.

"I want to start a conversation about women and retirement," she said. "I have a personal feeling that women are quietly embarrassed about their finances, possibly ashamed."

So Phelan, author of "Women, Money and Prosperity: A Sister's Perspective on How to Retire Well," is encouraging women to start SISTERS clubs. SISTERS stands for Stackable Income Streams To Empower Retirement Security, and the group encourages women to have several sources generating money throughout retirement.

"The club provides consistency, it provides hope, it provides structure," she said.

An AARP Texas survey released in September revealed that one in four Texans between 40 and 64 had less than $5,000 in savings.

Among female respondents, that number was one in three.

A focus of the survey was how the financial preparation of women can be shakier than men. Some 26 percent of women reported they are very anxious about having enough money in retirement and 36 percent are somewhat anxious.

Phelan said women feel less prepared for retirement for a variety of reasons. They've had years of wage inequality, many left the workforce to care for children or aging parents, and they often live longer than men.

She said Social Security may not be enough to cover their retirement costs, and other streams of income - like alimony, child support or a primary earner's income - may disappear.

"I think women feel like it's their fault," she said, "and they don't understand that there are other structural factors in play."

Jeff Speight, relationship manager at Tanglewood Wealth Management based in Houston, said the SISTERS club sounds intriguing.

"Theoretically, it sounds really interesting because women do tend to live longer than men," he said.

Speight said his mother has been living alone for 12 years, and he has watched her consider different avenues to make ends meet and continue growing her finances.

And according to his wife, Speight said, her friends will discuss retirement when they're with other women - and these conversations are always over food, sometimes wine.

"They would never discuss some of these things in a mixed setting," he said.

That's because, or so his wife says, men tend to want to be problem solvers. They can be too pushy or give raw, unemotional answers. While he said he tries not to do this himself, Speight said women just feel more comfortable discussing this issue with other women.

It's like a support group for displaced female entrepreneurs.

For those interested in starting a SISTERS club:

  • Meet with a financial adviser and develop a written plan
  • Learn how to create income from investments
  • Embrace non-traditional living arrangements like renting out empty bedrooms or getting a roommate
  • Consider working a little longer or working part time in retirement
  • Start a business
  • Pool their talents, ideas and resources

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