5 Ways Women Can Get Back on Track in 2021
While 2020 was a tough year for everyone, women were hit especially hard in several ways, and they felt it right from the beginning.
Many jobs lost early in the COVID-19 pandemic were roles typically filled by women, in fields such as leisure, retail, and hospitality. Female unemployment in the U.S. reached 16.2% in April 2020 – nearly three points higher than the rate for men. And as the pandemic persisted, so did gender gaps. First, many women became full-time caregivers as kids stayed home from school for virtual learning. And as family members got sick, COVID-19 or not, women still took care of them.
Unfortunately, even the elimination of the novel coronavirus won’t solve these problems instantly. Indeed, while things began to improve a bit with COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon, by year-end women had taken another step backward, accounting for all 140,000 U.S. job losses reported in December.
Many women need to catch up in 2021 and beyond in order to recover from the economic fallout. It won’t be easy. But these five tips could help you get back on track:
1.) Restore Your Retirement Savings
After the CARES Act allowed for penalty-free early withdrawals, many people used retirement funds to get through 2020. Others may have stopped saving for their future to cover their most pressing current expenses. These stopgaps may have helped temporarily, but in the long run, they’re bad for financial health – especially for women who already save less due to pay gaps and other gender disparities:
- Prudential’s 2019 report, “Closing the Retirement Income Gender Gap,” estimates that because they earn about 20% less than men on average, women save about 32% less for retirement.
- The Administration for Community Living reported that the median annual income of women over 65 is 41% lower than it is for men.
Tip: Prioritize and work to replenish your retirement savings in 2021 by revisiting your budget and making sure you’re regularly putting money into your IRA, 401(k), or similar account. If possible, aim to save at least 10% of your gross income per year, and more if you can.
2.) Take Advantage of New Training Opportunities
Many people see unemployment and cut work hours as a chance to try out new career paths, and there are more opportunities than ever to expand your skills. This is most important for those in jobs hit hardest by the pandemic, like restaurants and hotels. Travel experts, for example, expect a slow recovery: Many businesses have closed permanently – and even with the vaccine, a sense of safety won’t return overnight.
Tip: Explore online programs and female-focused tools. Careers site Career Contessa, for example, offers free webinars on skills like leadership, job searching, and more.
3.) Explore Resources to Make Dreams Happen
Many people, including women, are turning the recent turmoil into an opportunity to start a new enterprise: Applications for new businesses in the U.S. have increased and continued to grow from the third quarter of 2020.
Tip: If you’re looking to start a business in 2021, check out this guide from the U.S. Small Business Administration as well as resources from the National Association of Women Business Owners, Ladies Who Launch, and other women-based entrepreneurs and leadership groups.
4.) Work With a Financial Professional
A financial professional can be helpful any time, but particularly during an economic downturn when finances become more complicated.
Tip: Talk to a financial professional for guidance navigating your investments, assets, taxes, and debts. They can help create a sustainable budget and savings plan that works for you now and in the future.
5.) Revisit and Refresh Your Long-term Goals
You may have been focused on simply surviving 2020, but as you move into 2021, try to take a step back and revisit your long-term financial and life goals. Consider where you’d like to be in five, ten, and twenty years. Then think about how you can get yourself back on track to make those goals happen.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to start small – successful organizations endorse simple goal-setting methods, including a Google Docs template, that may help you get started. Try out different strategies and see what you like.
Taking on 2021
2020 piled challenge after challenge – financial, familial, and more on America’s women, but vaccine rollout seems to represent a light at the end of the tunnel. That means that now is the perfect time for women to revisit their money strategies, upskill themselves and seek professional advice to hit the ground running in the year to come.
Explore the resources noted throughout this article independently – and reach out to a reputable financial professional who can help you plan the best path forward based on your situation.
“Where you stumble and fall, there you will find gold.” – Joseph Campbell
By Bana Jobe
Photo by Adam Satria
Bana Jobe has spent more than a decade writing about personal finance and health care topics for Fortune 500 brands and media outlets.
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