How is a Woman's Retirement Plan Like a Smartphone?

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Financial strategist Donna M. Phelan, author of “Women, Money and Prosperity: A Sister’s Perspective on How to Retire Well,” ( relates the story of Wanda Strong – one of four sisters – one married, one widowed, one divorced and one who never married.

Finding herself suddenly single with two kids to support and less than 15 years to retirement, Wanda had to make a choice:  she could either succumb to the numbing fear about her financial future, or she could embrace new strategies for prosperity.  She chose the latter.

“Many women feel an unspoken fear about money and retirement because they sense they are not prepared and don’t know what to do about it,” says Phelan.  “What’s worse – they don’t talk about it!”

Women’s retirement plan

Women may indeed be behind, due to a lifetime of lower earnings, leaving the workforce for childcare and eldercare, working in jobs that don’t offer retirement plans, and their own longevity, according to the US Census and Social Security Administration.

Phelan provides “ahs” – awareness, hope and strategies: awareness of women’s own financial situation, hope that it’s never too late (or too early) to start planning, and real life strategies that are easy and practical for women of any age or current financial situation.

  1. Create Stackable Income Streams to Empower Retirement Security (SISTERS).

Women need to stack several income streams to cover their retirement spending needs because one, such as Social Security, may not be enough.  And others, such as alimony, child support or a primary earner’s income, may disappear.

  1. Get as inspired to learn about money as you are about your new smartphone!

“Women often say that they can’t understand money concepts because they are too complex to learn,” Phelan says.  “But they want to learn about their smartphone  — by far, a much more complex, highly advanced piece of technology that is constantly changing –- because they want to stay in touch with their kids.”

“But think of the similarities between your smartphone and money:

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  • Both have their own language.
  • Both give you tremendous options for freedom.
  • Both have a broad range of applications.
  • Both take time and willingness to learn.
  • Both can, at times, feel frustrating and overwhelming.
  • Both are within your intelligence and offer great potential rewards for mastering them.
  • Only one requires that you ask the advice of someone embarrassingly younger than you how to use it!”
  1. Join the conversation, start a SISTERS Club.

Wanda calls her 3 sisters and a few friends together to brainstorm new retirement strategies for stackable income streams.

They could:

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

A SISTERS Club, like a book club, is a safe environment where women can come together to share knowledge and experiences, generate ideas, and create investments and business ventures that will provide on-going retirement income.  It is a community of women helping women, and helping themselves to improve their retirement planning success. So join the conversation!

About Donna M. Phelan

Donna M. Phelan has spent more than 18 years at some of Wall Street’s largest and most prestigious investment firms. She holds an MBA in finance from the University of Connecticut, and provides personal financial advice to clients coast to coast. The author of “Women, Money and Prosperity: A Sister’s Perspective on How to Retire Well,” (, she has lectured at conferences nationwide on a broad range of financial topics and has published numerous articles on investments, retirement and financial planning. Phelan was formerly president of the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) Connecticut state chapter and was active in the Financial Women’s Association (FWA) in New York.

women retirement plan
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