Now more than at any other time in history, women are truly in charge of their destinies. We rock the career world, parent perfectly, sail through our studies – and we look good in the process. But one area where studies show there is room for improvement is our finances. And it can definitely be overwhelming deciding exactly what your financial priorities should be.

An easy way for women to approach their finances is to look at their specific life stage.

Our financial priorities change depending on what is going on in our lives. Being single, married, a parent or empty nester will profoundly change how you approach your money plans.

Here are six of the biggest life stages women go through with tips for financial health in each one.

1. Singlehood

Today, many women are happy to stay single for much longer than they would have a few decades ago. While this is a time of great personal freedom, it is also the right time to start laying the foundation for a solid financial future.

Some key financial priorities for single women are:

* Saving for short and medium-term goals like buying a car or putting down a deposit on a property.

* Starting a retirement plan – the longer you save for retirement, the better your after-work life will be.

* Covering yourself through disability cover if something happens that leaves you unable to work.

* Having an emergency fund for unexpected events.

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2. Life together

Now you and your Mr Right are settling down to a life together you can be forgiven for focusing on the wedding or first house or next romantic trip. But you should drag your head from the clouds long enough to adjust your finances to your new circumstances.

Specifically you should:

* Review any disability cover now that you are a “we” with dual incomes – your needs will be different.

* Consider taking out life insurance to ensure your partner is provided for if you pass away and vice versa.

* Decide how you want to handle your daily finances: draw up a household budget, decide who is “in charge” of finances, look at bank accounts and decide if separate or joint accounts work best.

* Draw up a will.

* Whether you are getting married or just living together, draw up an appropriate contract to protect yourself.

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3. Children

Your tiny little bundle of joy packs quite a financial punch.

Not only will children cost a lot on a day-to-day basis, but they will also need to be well taken care of should anything happen to you or your partner.

Some specific things to think about:

* During the early days do you have enough put away to cover maternity leave and the associated costs of pregnancy and early child care?

* Have you added your child to your will?

* Does your medical cover work for the whole family? Have you added your child on to it?

* Have you taken out a life insurance policy or reviewed your existing plan?

* Have you increased your emergency fund?

* Have you started saving for their education?

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4. Owning a home

Whether you are planning to buy a house solo or as a couple, it is likely to be the biggest investment you will make in your life (next to retirement savings). You will need to save a substantial deposit before buying property – aim for at least 20 percent.

A new house comes with other costs such as transfer fees, alterations, security and furnishing. Before taking the plunge, make sure you are well prepared.

Other things to check off your list:

* Take out insurance to cover bond repayments should something happen to you or your spouse.

* Check that your will stipulates the right people as beneficiaries.

* Revisit the details of your short-term insurance contract.

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5. Going it alone

Unfortunately, statistically, you are likely to end up flying solo again, either through divorce or by outliving your partner (women live on average seven years longer than men).

If you do face divorce, some financial considerations:

* Alimony, maintenance and custody of children, division of assets, health care, life cover, and retirement savings and investments.

* If necessary, amend your will, and revisit your estate plan to ensure that your children are provided for.

If your partner dies, it is important to be very familiar with the benefits attached to life assurance policies and retirement funds as well as having a good grasp on his financial affairs in general.

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6. Retirement

Retirement planning should begin when you start working. Just as important, however, is the management of your money once you have retired.

Things to think about:

* It is never too late to take out a retirement annuity – your eventual lump sum decreases dramatically with every year that you postpone it.

* Once you have retired, you will require expert advice on the right pension to buy, and gaining further capital growth through reinvesting your money at the appropriate risk.

René Roux is the head of Sanlam Liquid.