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Special Report: How women can improve their financial fitness

Women are failing to save for their futures. Research shows only 12% of working women are "very confident" they will retire comfortably. Experts say men and women shouldn't be working out of the same retirement playbook.

"I think women just fall into a stereotype or an idea that they don't need to know but you really do need to know," said Karen Ellenbecker, founder of Ellenbecker Investment Group.

When Karen Ellenbecker founded the Ellenbecker Investment Group 22 years ago, there were few women in the financial services industry. Now, she makes it a point to make sure women are educated about their own personal finances.

"You should have a say in it and understand what comes in and what goes out and what you're spending and what you're saving more importantly," said Ellenbecker.

A recent survey found that men are much more prepared for retirement than women, saving on average $115,000 compared to just $34,000 for women. You could blame the pay game. According to the US Census, a woman earns 80.5 cents for every dollar a man earns. Ellenbecker says, there's more to it than that.

"There's a whole list of reasons that women earn less. They stay home and take care of kids. They stay home and take care of kids. They stay home and take care of aging parents or friends and family and come back into the workforce at a lesser salary," said Maureen Hansen, President of SVA Plumb Financial.

Maureen Hansen says a woman's role as a caretaker is a big reason why their salaries peak at age 40 while a man likely doesn't see his highest salary till age 55.

"Money isn't logical, it's a very emotional state," said Hansen.

Seminars like the ones held by SVA Plumb Financial are a good first step if you're not sure how to start investing. You can also choose to meet one on one with a financial planner. The goal is to have a plan of action and not reaction to a sudden change like death or divorce. 

"Panic is not an investment, so when things don't go right, you can't panic. You need to have a long-term perspective and you need to have a gut check that says I can handle this," Hansen said.

Hansen says a good rule of thumb is to aim to save at least %15 of your salary for retirement. There are different ways to do that. A financial planner can help you figure out which one is best for you.


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