Financial Security: How Much Money Is Enough?

How do you recognize financial security? Are you financially secure? Find out whether your finances are in good enough standing.

By Anne Stockwell

Financial Testimonies

Yes, yes, we know it’s an impossible question, but we bet you’ve asked it anyway. How much money is enough? How much do you need before you feel confident that you can… what, exactly? Stop worrying that you’re going to end up a bag lady? Take a break and try something different, like maybe a whole new career? Everyone has her own comfort level regarding money earned, money spent, and money in the bank. We asked six women to tell us what financial security means for them.

CARRIE SCHWAB POMERANTZ, 44

President, Schwab Foundation for Learning

"I have always saved, since I was about nine years old," says Schwab Pomerantz. "It wasn’t for my first car or stereo; it was always for the rainy day. My dad was a struggling businessman until my twenties."

Her father is financial services guru Charles Schwab, and as everyone knows, his company outlasted its early struggles. These days, Schwab Pomerantz follows her passion for helping disadvantaged women and girls through the Schwab Foundation for Learning. She is also an officer of her father’s firm, where she provides investment advice. Her formula: For every $1,000 of monthly income you want over a 30-year retirement, you’ll need $300,000 in investments. It’s a number many people find shocking. "I give people a reality check," says Schwab Pomerantz. "Most people have never been told how much retirement costs."

For her personally, "enough" has always meant the ability to make her own choices. At midlife, Schwab Pomerantz’s habit of saving for a rainy day has morphed into saving for retirement. But she’s also discovered she’s ready to have more fun—so for the first time, she’s hired a financial planner to help her stay on track and still have money to play. "I’ve been raising my kids and plugging along," she says. "Now I’m ready to get back out in the world."

The Bottom Line: Even finance pros hire financial planners. There’s no security like having a plan that works, and sticking to it.

SHARON ISBIN, 49

Classical Musician

As one of the world’s leading classical guitarists, Isbin can pretty much write her own artistic ticket. Last year, this Grammy-winning artist recorded with the New York Philharmonic, the first guitarist ever to do so.

Isbin’s financial acumen lies in understanding more than just the artistic value of her work. "As a guitarist, I’m in the fortunate position of playing an instrument that’s not part of the orchestra," she says. "So, for example, if I’m the person for whom a new guitar concerto was written, orchestras have to ask me to play it."

Isbin also excels at taking care of business—contracts, recordings, bookings, promotions. Yes, she has a manager and an agent, but she still pays microscopic attention to details others might delegate, down to choosing the photographer of the record cover. "Everything has to work together," she explains.

Isbin supplements her performance and teaching income with other investments, including the purchase—and very profitable sale—of a New York City apartment. Asked to define "enough," she doesn’t hesitate: "I want to be confident about the future when I retire," she says. "I don’t want to be sitting on an airplane going on tour when I’m 85 years old!"

The Bottom Line: Know what your work is worth, and make the most of your high-earning years.

STEPHANIE ROSS, 56

TV Producer

Throughout her career, Ross, a senior producer on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, has used the same organizational skills that make her successful at work to make smart financial choices. So she was confident that she and her TV-producer husband, Gregg, had all their ducks in a row for retirement before 60. But life intervened: Ross’s mother, now 88, outlived her long-term-care insurance plan. "I never took into consideration that I would probably need to support my mother," says Ross. The resulting drop in income is "just ruinous," both in terms of affording the assisted-living facility where her mother resides, and for her own retirement plans.

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