Prioritizing Your Retirement Planning

This week, Maggie is chatting with Tiffany Lam-Balfour, an investing spokesperson at NerdWallet. In this episode, they chat about how women can optimize their investments and prepare for retirement.

Related Links:

Tiffany Lam-Balfour is an investing writer and spokesperson at NerdWallet. Previously, she was a senior financial advisor and sales manager at Merrill Lynch and spent nearly a decade in investment banking and investment management prior to that. Her work has been featured in MSN, MarketWatch, Entrepreneur, Nasdaq and Yahoo Finance. She’s appeared on Fox Los Angeles and NBC Richmond and been quoted by USA Today, NPR and Forbes. Tiffany earned a finance and management degree from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

To learn more about Maggie and her coaching and speaking services, visit

The theme music is called Escaping Light by Aaron Sprinkle. The podcast artwork design is by Maggie’s dear husband, Dan Rader.


Maggie Germano 0:05
Hi, and thanks for listening to the money circle podcast. I’m your host, Maggie Germano, and I’m a feminist and a financial writer, speaker, educator and coach for women. I’m passionate about making personal finance less scary and more approachable so that women can improve their relationship with money and take control of their finances. Every other week, I will interview an amazing, inspiring woman to talk about the issues that impact our money, our health, our independence, and more. We will touch on the societal and structural issues that we need to work together to change and the actions that we each have the power to take in our own lives. If you’d like to learn more about me and the work that I do, visit my website at or follow me on Instagram @MaggieGermano. Thanks again for listening and I hope you enjoy.

Maggie Germano 0:53
Hey there, and thanks for listening. I’m your host Maggie Germano. And this week, I’m chatting with Tiffany Lam-Balfour and investing spokesperson at NerdWallet. In this episode, we chat about how women can optimize their investments and prepare for retirement. If you want to make sure you are planning for your future and keeping your future self secure. This episode is for you. Enjoy.

Maggie Germano 1:23
Okay, welcome, Tiffany. Thanks so much for being here today.

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 1:27
Hey, Maggie, it’s great to be here.

Maggie Germano 1:29
Great. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 1:34
Sure. I’m Tiffany Lam-Balfour. I’m an investing writer and spokesperson at NerdWallet. And before I started writing, and being a spokesperson at Nerd wallet, I was a financial advisor. So I love what I’m doing now. Because I get to share unbiased information about investing and break down more complicated investing in retirement topics and reach a broader audience.

Maggie Germano 1:58
That’s great. And how did you find yourself in this line of work? Both getting into being a financial advisor and then finding yourself at NerdWallet?

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 2:09
Well, you know, I’ve always I studied finance I’ve always been interested in in helping people. I think, first I saw it with my parents just how important it was to have a plan when heading towards retirement. So as a financial advisor, I got to work with individuals. And now as a writer, I feel like it’s really important information for more people to know about and to plan and prepare for.

Maggie Germano 2:34
Yeah, no, I’m with you there, I think, especially retirement, but investing overall, it can be a really scary topic for a lot of people. So I think the more people who are getting in the business of making it more approachable and less scary, the better.

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 2:50
I definitely agree.

Maggie Germano 2:53
So what would you say to women who are worried that maybe they’re behind in saving for retirement, whether it’s because they started investing for retirement later in their career, or they just worried that maybe they weren’t doing it, right?

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 3:10
Sure, I mean, with anyone, especially women, I would say, really, there’s no time like the present, when it comes to saving for your future, it’s important to start doing it as soon as you can, so that your savings and your investments can compound and grow as much as possible. So when we talk about compounding, it’s what really makes your money work for you. Because what you’ve invested, earns returns, those returns are then reinvested. So that is what makes your account snowballing grow over time. So I think that’s why you always hear people say get started as early as you can, and I will echo that here. But you don’t need to wait until you have a certain amount of savings. I know some women think, oh, you know, I’m not putting away as much as I want to. So I’ll just hold off, it’s important to just get started right away. So put away what you can even if it’s a smaller amount and just work on building it up from there.

Maggie Germano 4:05
That’s great advice. And I’m I’m a believer of like, just starting when you’re thinking about it or when you’re worrying about it. Because the more you kind of wait, the scarier it gets. What do you recommend for folks who either you know, they don’t have a retirement plan through work or you know, just don’t really know what other kinds of vehicles they should look into for retirement?

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 4:34
Well, there is a lot of places for you to find information, right? You can. There are a lot of times community workshops, maybe at your local why or you can look at NerdWallet and different resources. We have articles that can tell you about the the different things that you can do. There’s different retirement accounts, whether it be IRAs or if you’re self employed. There’s different types of retirement vehicles for you too. So there’s all sorts of different things out there, no matter what the circumstances. And if you don’t feel comfortable or you feel like you still don’t know where to go, there are plenty of different people that you can reach out to for help. There’s lots of different types of financial advisors, ones that are more full service and manager investments to ones that you can hire hourly and just get a little bit of a start to make sure you’re doing the right thing.

Maggie Germano 5:29
Yeah, and I bet that that’s good to know for listeners that, you know, if they do want to work with a financial advisor, it’s not it doesn’t have to be this huge time and, and financial investment, there are advisors out there who will work on work with you like on a one off basis to help you kind of get set up.

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 5:49
Yes, definitely lots of different choices out there.

Maggie Germano 5:52
No, that’s that’s good to hear. I think I think the, the idea of a financial adviser can scare people away sometimes. So just knowing that there’s those options can be helpful.

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 6:02
And I think you know, it’s also sorry, it’s also important to just know, you know, you have, you get to hire that advisor, right. So if you meet someone and you talk to them, and you don’t feel comfortable, you don’t have to necessarily go with that person. You can check out multiple different people and find someone that makes you feel comfortable that is structured in a way that that fits your budget and what you’re looking for.

Maggie Germano 6:27
Yeah, exactly. Like you don’t have to just hire someone just because you talked to them. Once you you want to make sure you’re feeling comfortable and confident in the person that you’re hiring to actually help you manage your money. That’s right. Yeah. So. So what kind of advice would you give to women who are thinking that they want to really optimize their investments to prepare for retirement? So maybe they’ve been investing for a while, they’re like they did get started early on, but they want to make sure that they’re really optimizing for retirement, what kind of advice would you give?

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 7:04
Well, I think with women, you know, there are some unique challenges that women will face. And so besides getting started early, looking at the whole picture, and also looking longer term, and making a detailed plan is really important. There are so many different choices. When it comes to investing and saving for retirement, do you max out this retirement account here? Or there? Do you take advantage of saving into a health savings account? Should you employ life insurance or annuity strategy? When it gets to retirement and social security? How do you claim it, every little thing makes a big difference. So if you’re not comfortable coming up with that plan, even if you feel like you have a pretty good plan, you know, getting a second opinion and working with an advisor, even if it’s for an hourly session, or something like that, just to review everything can help you make sure you know that you have a sound strategy in place. And if you do, find an advisor that you like, that is just someone who you can bounce ideas off of. And just make sure that you know, you’re choosing the best thing for your situation along the way. So I think those things are really important. And women can also, right now socially responsible investing is a really big thing. One of the themes we see often is women supporting each other by investing in other women, women run companies, women, who companies have women on the board on their boards, companies that pay women equally to men. So supporting other women means that we can empower one another and help overcome the financial roadblocks that women will face, you know, together.

Maggie Germano 8:45
Yeah, I love that. I love the idea of like that, that is also part of an investment strategy. It’s supporting each other and lifting each other up. And you mentioned socially responsible investing. I know that that’s something that a lot of people in the past maybe thought that it wasn’t as financially rewarding to do there, the returns weren’t as good. But it sounds to me from what I’ve been hearing that that has actually changed over time.

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 9:15
Yeah, even if there’s so many different choices, there’s so much emphasis on, you know, choosing investments that, you know, that you that follow your values. And we have seen performance wise that, you know, socially responsible investing doesn’t just achieve comparable results, but oftentimes, it actually achieves better results better returns with lower risk because you’re investing in companies that are, you know, have a very strong moral compass similar to your own and likely and so, you know, I think that those companies are very responsible, you’re going to see that come through in their results too.

Maggie Germano 9:55
That’s really good to hear. So, for people who are worried about Over sacrificing their values in order to grow their money for their future wealth, they maybe don’t have to worry about that as much as as long as they’re choosing those funds that have the socially responsible investments.

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 10:15
Yes. And you’ll have, then there’s more and more choice. I feel like by the day,

Maggie Germano 10:20
that’s so good to hear. And so why do you think it’s really important specifically for women to be on top of their investment strategy.

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 10:29
So I mentioned, you know, women supporting women. And that’s just because women do have some unique circumstances and the obstacles, right, if you look at women as a whole, generally, we earn less compared to our male counterparts, which means of earning less, we’re saving less into Social Security. If you’re lucky enough to still have a pension, you’re saving less than to your pension, women tend to live longer lives on average than men, which means that we may be in retirement for longer. And when you’re in retirement and getting older, you may encounter more health concerns have a higher need for caregiving, which is costly. We also tend to have more career interruptions versus men, we, a lot of times are caregivers, for children or for elderly. And that causes us to step away and then earn less and save less. And we actually sometimes will spend more because women’s products can be priced higher than similar men’s products. So, you know, keeping all of these different headwinds in mind, it’s really important for women to be intentional about planning and saving and investing just to make sure that we can, you know, overcome all of these different roadblocks in our way and make sure that we have a comfortable future for ourselves and the people that we care about.

Maggie Germano 11:45
Yeah, no, absolutely. And it sounds like there’s external forces kind of affecting us from all different directions with women living longer women, the products geared towards women being more expensive. And then also like the career disruptions, as we’re kind of hearing a lot in the news. And with just like, the conversation across the country with like, paid leave, and those sorts of things. There’s a lot of external forces impacting when and how women are able to actually save money.

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 12:20
Yeah, we’ve seen that, you know, with this global pandemic, so many women have stepped out of the workforce. And, you know, now that we have, you know, younger children getting vaccinated, hopefully things will slowly over time, get back to normal, but, you know, women wear a lot of hats. And so balancing all of that, and making sure that we’re still saving and preparing for our future is something we have to pay attention to.

Maggie Germano 12:44
Yeah, no, I agree. So for folks who are for women, specifically, who do find themselves, either, you know, stepping out of the workforce to care for children or other family members, or folks who are feeling forced out of the workforce, because of the pandemic, do you have advice for them on how to continue trying to invest for retirement or, or have that strategy in mind, even if they’re out of the workforce?

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 13:14
I mean, you know, if you’re in the workforce, a lot of people, if the employer offers a 401k, you’re putting money there, right. But if you’re not working, you can’t do that. But you can still open an IRA, an individual retirement account, or if your spouse’s working, you can open a spousal IRA. So there are different options out there. And I mean, it’s hard to make a blanket statement, because it depends on every single person situation. But we’ve also seen, you know, a lot of times with shifting priorities and women needing more flexibility, there has been an increase in what they call the gig economy. So you know, people who are working kind of part time or working from home or creating their businesses. And when you’re self employed in a way, in that way, you are able to open different types of retirement accounts as well. So there are options out there. Obviously, it’s a change. But, you know, maybe speaking to an advisor can be helpful to figure out what else you can still do, even though your circumstances have changed.

Maggie Germano 14:19
Yeah, absolutely. It sounds like finding experts or resources that can help you make those decisions is really important in that scenario, especially.

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 14:31
Yeah, yeah. And like we mentioned before, you know, you can have anywhere from the dedicated financial advisor or planner who also does investments for you, or an hourly planner or advisor, who reviews your situation there are also Robo advising services, which are lower cost and they can help you invest and still give you professional management. And, you know, I’ve seen lots of different places to get financial advice. You know, I know our local why why have financial workshops. But, you know, if you’re still employed with a company that has a 401k, oftentimes, your employer or the 401k, may offer financial wellness and support as part of your benefits. So, you know, there’s lots of resources out there, and you can always come see [email protected] with all of our articles and calculators and podcasts and YouTube videos, too. So we can help, you know, give you some direction as well.

Maggie Germano 15:27
That’s great. Yeah, no, that’s, that’s really helpful. Are there anything that you haven’t already mentioned, as far as resources go, where people who, you know, they don’t really know where to start, maybe they’re really new to the financial conversation, you know, resources that you have found to be really helpful in referring people to?

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 15:49
I mean, a lot of the things I mentioned before, and also, you know, I think it’s just important to note, right, and we’ve kind of talked about this, you know, a bit of a hesitation to get started. But we recently did do a NerdWallet survey, looking at the differences between men and women and investing. And we found that less than half of women in the United States are currently investing in the stock market, women are less likely to have learned about investments often feel less confident versus men when thinking about investing. And they’re more likely to delegate some or all of the management of their investments to someone else. So I just wanted to say, you know, it can be easy to avoid or put off things when you feel like you might not know as much as you need to, or you think it’ll take a lot of work. But there are all of those different avenues to get help and to get started. So the earlier you start, the better off you’ll be. And so if you bite the bullet as soon as you can, you’ll be just better off. And there’s nothing wrong with asking for help and delegating your portfolio to someone else. I just think it’s important to keep tabs on what’s happening. So you understand it, and you can monitor to make sure you’re getting the best advice, or if perhaps you might need to make a change at some point.

Maggie Germano 17:03
Yeah, no, that’s really good advice. Because I think it can be tempting, obviously, to have the expert be the one who’s really, you know, taking over everything. And of course, like I personally have a financial advisor to like she’s keeping an eye on everything for me. But for me personally being dialed in, and like checking in with her regularly having her walk through everything with me, it not only makes me feel better, that the decisions that are being made are right for me. But it also makes me more confident knowing that what is happening is right, and that I don’t have to worry as much about my future. And I’m I have some of that capability of understanding my own finances. And I think confidence is a huge part of the money conversation. So yeah, just echoing what you were saying about like being keeping yourself informed, even if you are having someone else helping you cuz it can really help you feel better about what you’re doing.

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 18:04
Right. And then if something changed, like if that advisor decided to, you know, change their job or something like that, then you know where you are. And, you know, you won’t feel, you know, like there’s this huge issue and you can you can still move on and figure out what to do next.

Maggie Germano 18:21
Right, absolutely. So is there anything else that we haven’t touched on yet, as far as preparing for retirement, making sure to be strategic and optimizing your strategy for investing anything that you haven’t mentioned yet that you want to make sure that listeners know?

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 18:41
You know, I just really want to encourage everyone to invest. Because when you think about our our lifespan, now, you could spend almost as much time in retirement as you do working, right. So that’s a long time to prepare for. And a lot of times people don’t have pensions and other things that you know, our parents or grandparents might have had. So, you know, making sure to have a plan and to think through that and to save as much as you can and invest is really important.

Maggie Germano 19:12
Yeah, no, I’m with you there. I definitely agree on that. So how can folks follow along with the work that you do?

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 19:20
Well, if you go to, or if you just Google my name and, you’ll see my author bio. The author bio also has a running list of all the articles that I’ve published, in order from the most recent to the least. So you can do that or you can follow me on social media. My Twitter handle is @tifflambelfour. So that’s at TI FF, l a M b e l, f o u r. And so those are two ways to keep in touch and and to see what I’m writing about and what I’m doing.

Maggie Germano 19:51
Wonderful, and I’ll be sure to link all that in the show notes too. So folks have easy access to you.

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 19:57
Okay, that sounds great. Thank you so much, Maggie. I appreciate Being on the podcast.

Maggie Germano 20:01
Great. Yeah, no, I appreciate you taking the time and sharing your expertise with the listeners.

Tiffany Lam-Balfour 20:06
Thank you.

Maggie Germano 20:07
Great. Thanks so much. Thanks again for listening to the money circle podcast. If you want to learn more about my financial coaching services, my speaking and workshop offerings, or just to read my blog visit To get in touch with me directly email me at [email protected] You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter @MaggieGermano. I look forward to hearing from you. Bye bye.