Life Lessons . . . My Girls Love These!

Two women sitting in an office discussing and pointing to something on a laptop screen

As the sole male in the Cutter household, with the exception of Louie our French bulldog, I’m outnumbered by women. A lot of my buddies joke that I’m the luckiest man on earth, and since Jill, Maeve, Phoebe, and Sophie are the most important women in my life, I agree. My girls definitely make sure to keep it real and put me in my “place” when the situation calls for it. And being raised by a single mother has taught me how strong and resilient women can be, so I have a healthy respect for the unique perspective they bring to the table and especially our family.

Being in the financial business, I also have a unique appreciation for the challenges women face in retirement for a variety of reasons. I’ve tried to instill some of this knowledge in my daughters so that they can hopefully avoid these gender-based disadvantages. For example, it’s probably not a surprise that women are typically the primary caregivers in their families. This means their careers are often paused in order to care for children or even elderly parents, and they can suffer some very real consequences as a result. Less time in the workforce often equates to less income compared to their male counterparts. And this means the potential for lower retirement account balances and smaller Social Security checks.

Now couple this with the fact that women, in general, tend to live quite a bit longer than men. This means stretching less in savings over a longer time period than men. 

As I teach my girls, this is like any other financial obstacle – if you understand it, you can make a plan for it. You don’t have to just accept the statistics; you can take action while you’re younger to achieve a successful retirement once you understand what you’re up against.

So, this week I’d like to share some “life lessons” that I have shared with my girls that hopefully can help others to better understand and prepare for common retirement challenges.

One of the first and probably best things you can do is to start saving early. There is no better gift in retirement planning is compounding returns; you always want money to make money when market momentum is on your side.  Even if you’re staying at home to care for family, you should still save for retirement. If you’re married and you file your income taxes jointly, you can open and contribute to a traditional or Roth IRA as long as your spouse has enough earned income to cover the contributions. 

I have explained to my girls, don’t put off saving for retirement in order to fund your children’s education. You can always take out a loan for education, but this simply won’t be an option at retirement – there are no “retirement loans”. And if you’re married, don’t rely solely on your spouse. Anything can happen between now and retirement – from a death, divorce, job loss or other life-changing situations; you need to have your own strategy to fund your retirement so that you’re not “putting all of your eggs into one basket”.

You’ll want to also calculate how much you’ll need in retirement, so you have a goal you’re working toward. I told them to think about how you’d like your retirement to look and then start assigning numbers to this. A successful retirement is all about having measurable and predictable income, so calculate the cost of things like your rent or mortgage, utilities, taxes, health care costs, transportation, meals and entertainment and more.

As you consider your income needs in retirement, you should also consider the possibility of spending some of those years alone. Get this, according to recent statistics from the Census Bureau, nearly 32% of women age 65+ are widowed compared to 11% of men₁. For married women, the loss of a spouse will typically mean a decrease in retirement income from Social Security or pension benefits, so preparation is key here.

The moment you start working, look to maximize contributions to your 401(k) or 403(b) plan. The plan will likely offer you a variety of mutual fund options to choose from within the company retirement plan. Be sure to review the educational materials they provide so you understand the risk/reward features they offer. Some mutual funds will be more aggressive in nature, which means your potential earnings can be greater; this will generally be accompanied by additional market risk. It’s important to understand your risk budget and potential for loss when selecting where to invest your savings. Often times, your employer will even match a portion of your contribution, so sign up and get started. The match is pretty much as close to “free money” as you’ll get, so don’t pass this up. 

Lastly, be sure to consider how potential health or long-term care expenses could affect you and your family. Being planful here can allow you more options to provide for care and reduce the emotional and financial burden on your loved ones. 

While no one person’s retirement will be the same, but just like anything in life, you must take the time to understand any obstacles in your way, and then make a plan to tip the scales in your favor.  These are some life lessons for my girls and other women who are trying to figure it out.  You know, with Maeve now 21, and the twins almost 19, Jill and I have always tried the teach our girls to be independent, to be strong, and to always have a plan.  But the important thing here is to just get started. 

And as always – be vigilant and stay alert, because you deserve more!

Have a great week folks.

Jeff Cutter, CPA/PFS offers investment advisory services through Cutter Financial Group, LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor with offices in Falmouth, Duxbury, and Mansfield. Jeff can be reached at

Insurance products, including annuities, are offered through Cutterinsure, Inc., (MA insurance license #2080572). Cutter Financial Group and Cutterinsure are affiliated and under common control but offer services separately. Members of Cutter Financial Group’s management receive revenue directly from Cutterinsure. Any compensation received is separate from and does not offset regular advisory fees. Cutter Financial Group does not charge advisory fees on any insurance products. We do not offer tax or legal advice. Always consult with qualified tax/legal professionals regarding your own situation. Investing in securities involves risk, including possible loss of principal. Insurance product guarantees are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing company. This article is intended to provide general information. It is not intended to offer or deliver investment advice in any way. Market data and other cited or linked-to content in this article is based on generally available information and is believed to be reliable. Please contact us to request a free copy of Cutter Financials’ Form CRS, Form ADV 2A and applicable Form ADV 2Bs. 1.