'Women Wise' authors use personal experiences to help retired women plan their financial futures

·4 min read

Jul. 26—By Khushboo Rathore


Eleanor Blayney and Marjorie Fox have known each other for a long time.

Two female financial planners in a male-dominated field can't go far without hearing about each other.

At first, Fox said, they were competitors while both living in Virginia.

"We were competing firms across the sidewalk in the mid-'80s," she said.

But as their careers continued, Fox and Blayney became more like colleagues. They received the same awards, saw each other at conferences, and began to talk. Blayney retired at the age of 67 and lived in Frederick for some time to be closer to her family but remained unsure of how to plan her own retirement future. A few months ago, she moved to a senior living facility in Washington state.

As one does, she searched far and wide for information about being a single woman in retirement and how to manage her assets. When she found nothing, she decided she needed to write a book to help other women like her.

Rather than write it on her own, as she did for her first book, "Women's Worth," she reached out to Fox. Over the past few years, they wrote "Women Wise: The Essential Guide to Financial and Lifestyle Decisions as We Age."

The book, published on June 7, was informed by the authors' lives and the struggles they have faced.

"We tend to write about things that we've experienced. And if we haven't experienced them, we go out and get the experience so that we can talk about it," Blayney said.

For instance, for the chapter about reverse mortgages, Fox decided to actually go through the process of obtaining one for her home, even though she didn't necessarily need it.

Both of them had different perspectives on what it was like to be a single woman in retirement. Fox lost her husband of 43 years to a traumatic brain injury in 2018, then moved to a new townhome in 2019. Right when she was adjusting to her new normal, the pandemic changed everything, she said. She had expected to have her husband beside her, helping and contributing. Blayney, meanwhile, had been divorced for some time before writing the book.

Chapter 12, We Need to Talk, is Blayney's favorite. While it isn't very technical, she said, it's an extremely important part of the book. As a baby boomer, Blayney's parents weren't the kind of people who talked about their lives and problems. They didn't mention money, death, divorce or the "facts of life," according to the book. Blayney believes that talking about these things, especially when it comes to estate planning, is necessary.

"We try to bring forward recognizing how important it is to inform your family. It's much easier for everyone if they know that your wishes are being met. But if you don't talk about it, you don't know," she said.

The book also includes information on enrolling in Medicare, use of Social Security benefits, and the retirement paycheck, which was one of Fox's favorite chapters. The retirement paycheck and getting a reverse mortgage, which is covered in chapter 10, are both ways to make sure a person's money outlives them and not the other way around. Fox took out a reverse mortgage while writing the book and worked on managing her assets in a way similar to what she writes about in the book. She uses these strategies, and has for a long time, which gives her an added perspective on how her financial planning works out and what things really need to be considered, she said.

"I can speak to it with personal experiences, but it's not perfect," Fox said. "No strategy is perfect. No strategy is magic."

She also said it's important to plan for the future, and that she has put down a deposit on a retirement community. The future is unpredictable, which is why Fox and Blayney emphasize how important it is to talk about it with family and to remain prepared financially, especially when there isn't cash flow from a job.

Having written the book for her generation, Blayney believes it will remain relevant for generations to come. While some practices may change and evolve, the general ideas and considerations for things like estate planning will remain the same, she said.

"Everyone, every reader, should read [about estate planning], whether they think they've already done it or not," Fox said, "because they probably haven't done everything they need to do."