Over a Year Remote: How Mentorship and Peer Groups Can Make a Difference

By Lindsey Carnett, CEO and President of Marketing Maven & WPO Los Angeles 1 Chapter member

Most leaders have heard “it’s lonely at the top” but this year we have really lived it while working remotely and raising our families without access to the usual “village” for support. March marked one year of remote work as well as Women’s History Month, the annual occasion where we come together to celebrate the successes of women and inspire others to be the best they can be.

Many women have mentors, and for some, it is considered the secret to their success. I have been lucky to have several mentors throughout my career, their wise words and practical advice guiding me to where I am today.

Mentors come in many shapes and sizes, but often, a more seasoned woman can and will give a new executive the ‘lay of the land’ and help them as they take their first steps on the C-suite ladder. From suggestions on how to manage a team, to utilizing soft skills that can help individuals gel with their co-workers, mentors are important figures that can transform the way their mentee approaches their career.

I have been privileged to mentor other women on their leadership journey. Some have been through formally structured leadership programs, and others through more informal pathways. But whatever the structure, both have led to positive results. It is a real joy to see those that I have mentored flourish in their careers, and ‘pay forward’ their expertise to others in the workplace by becoming mentors themselves.

Mentoring is something that takes time to develop – it is an art to be in more of the coaching role than the directive! Often, every time a mentor helps a mentee, the mentor can often be the person that receives the greatest benefit. I know that for many of the mentees I have coached, I have gained fresh perspectives that have helped me develop my business and my team.

Aside from mentors and mentees, peer groups are also valuable structures for women to gain support and expertise. Peer groups are often the collaboration of non-competing companies and help to build trust amongst business owners. Perhaps in the most challenging of times, these groups come into their own.

During the unpredictability and destabilizing COVID lockdowns, my Women Presidents’ Organization Los Angeles 1 Chapter was an important venue to pick up practical information and advice. For example, who was having success in applying for PPP funds? Which banks were efficient in providing financial support to struggling businesses? How can we best manage our employees who were working remotely? And aside from the professional advice, these groups were also a lifeline for personal connections and wellbeing – sharing top tips for getting a break away from the computer, juggling home schooling with work commitments and staying focused when it was all becoming a bit too much.

As we look to the working landscape post COVID, mentors and mentees and peer groups are perhaps more important than ever. The structure- either formal or informal that they provide will help to boost productivity, increase confidence, and utilize the sharing of best practice at a time when we are all looking to get back to a way of life that we remember. For me, I will continue to mentor those who are starting out on their professional journey and look forward to supporting my peers to help them, and myself, be the best that I can be.

I urge you to seek a mentorship experience before the end of the year. Remember – it is very rewarding as a mentor. And do not keep WPO to yourself. Spread the word to those qualified women who can be stronger with the support of fellow businessowners through a proven peer group.

Member of the Moment: Inna Tuler

Inna Tuler

President and CEO, MAINTCO CORP


Industry: Construction

WPO member since 2011 (Los Angeles III Chapter)


How has being a WPO member helped your business?

WPO has been part of my life for the past 10 years. I joined WPO in 2011 after my husband passed away and the women in the chapter helped me and supported me in taking my business many steps further as a 100% woman owner. It’s like having your own board of directors consisting of brilliant women owners that share so much experience and time and true friendship. Since joining WPO my business grew and developed by a lot and I look forward to every month’s meeting to share experiences and wins with my WPO chapter.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in business?

Women must contend with a wide range of challenges in business. I find it very important to stay true to myself and use my own voice to rise above expectations. Maintaining a balance of a successful business, a spouse, a mother, a grandmother is difficult as the levels of expectations can differ between the multiple hats I must wear. The daily battle is to not be overwhelmed in finding the balance. Focusing on the basics of business is still paramount no matter what. The balance also includes being consistent in decision making guidelines. Consistent but flexible enough to make adjustments with changes in the time and technology.

What inspired you to start your business?

Trust in myself and my husband, and an opportunity to make more for my family. The partnership with my husband was such that there was open discussion and business decisions based on calculated strategies. We weighed the risk versus reward to move the business forward.

What’s your favorite WPO event you’ve attended? Why?

I attended the annual conference in New Orleans and was really taken by the positivity and openness of all the women I met at the conference. Also, it was lots of fun to walk the Mardi Gras with all of us from our hotel to downtown. It gave us all the feeling of fun and togetherness with lots of laughter.

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

People are your biggest assets. Understand the needs of your team and share in the wins and losses. Do not take too much credit when things go well, but also do not beat yourself up too much when things do not go as expected.

What lesson have you learned that can you share with other women entrepreneurs?

Stay true to yourself and use your own voice to rise above expectations, but never pass up the opportunity to listen and learn from others.

How Women Can Combat Their Greatest Retirement Risk

April is Financial Education Awareness Month

Key Takeaways

  • Living longer can increase the risk of a woman’s outliving her savings.
  • Planning for longevity risk means accounting for competing financial goals and specific financial threats.
  • Shaping your plan early and utilizing the right tools are essential.
  • You and your employees are invited to Prudential’s June 16, 2021 webinar to help answer the question: Is Your Financial House in Order? Click here to register now.·

Retiring comfortably is a desire that’s shared by men and women alike, but their pursuit of that goal may appear very different. For women, achieving a secure retirement means preparing for one very real threat: outliving their savings.

Researchers at the London Business School suggest that more than half of millennials today could live to age 100.1 Statistically, after turning age 65, women have an average life expectancy that’s two and half years longer than men.2

While living longer may mean more time to travel or pursue leisure activities in retirement, it also requires women to rethink their savings strategy to help ensure their money will last. Creating a strategy that acknowledges and minimizes longevity risk is critical to avoiding a financial shortfall.

1. Prioritize your financial needs

Managing longevity risk begins with understanding what your retirement needs are and what obstacles may exist that make saving for those needs more difficult.

For example, stepping away from your career to care for children impacts your ability to save for the future. According to a Salary.com survey, the duties performed by stay-at-home moms are worth an annual salary of just over $143,000.3

While you may not contribute financially to the household, your role is a highly valued one and you should treat it as such from a savings perspective. Your spouse can contribute to a spousal IRA on your behalf during your non-working years. If and when you return to the workforce, you can continue growing retirement wealth through an employer-sponsored plan or an IRA of your own.

Adequate life insurance coverage is another essential tool for couples when outliving your spouse is a possibility. The proceeds from a life insurance policy could supplement income from retirement accounts, including those you own and any you inherit from your spouse. You should also consider life insurance for yourself, in the event you’re not the spouse who lives longer. The amount of life insurance each of you needs to have in place in order to adequately protect your family may surprise you.

Caregiving duties — either for an aging parent or a spouse — can put a wrinkle in your savings plans. According to Caregiver.org, 75% of all caregivers are women.4 Acting as a caregiver can make saving consistently more difficult if you’re working fewer hours or taking a temporary leave of absence.

In this scenario, you’d likely need to adjust your budget to account for a reduced income. Saving should still be part of your budget, however. If you’re working, you can lower your contributions to your employer’s plan or an IRA, but you shouldn’t discontinue them altogether. Even small contributions allow you to take advantage of the power of compound interest over time.

Saving for college is yet another conflicting goal to contend with. You may not want your children to leave school thousands of dollars in debt, but your own financial situation should take precedence. Think of it this way: In a plane crash, you’re told to put on your oxygen mask first, then help your children. The same principle applies when it comes to retirement.

As you plan for longevity, keep the focus on your needs. Review how much you have in retirement savings, either in an employer’s plan or an IRA. Add in your other assets, including taxable brokerage accounts and liquid savings. Then, compare the total number to your ideal retirement savings target.

  • How wide is the gap?
  • How much will you need to add to your savings monthly or yearly to reach your goal, based on your age now and the age at which you plan to retire?
  • How could staying at home to raise children, acting as a caregiver, or paying for college compromise your ability to save?

Answering these questions can help you make adjustments to your plans and downplay longevity risk.

2. Think about your long-term health

A longer life expectancy can increase the odds of needing long-term care at some point. If you’re married, it’s also possible that your spouse could require long-term care. The average cost of care in a semi-private room was $225 per day in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.5 Assuming a 2.5 year stay, long-term care could add over $205,000 to your retirement costs.

Medicare doesn’t pay for long-term care. Medicaid does, but you’re required to spend down your assets to qualify. Long-term care insurance could help cover the cost without draining your savings, but there’s a risk of paying for coverage that you may never use.

Again, this is where life insurance can be of benefit. Permanent life insurance policies allow you to build cash value that can accumulates interest, generally tax-free, over time. You could then borrow any accumulated cash value in retirement to help pay for health needs, preserving your other retirement assets.6

An annuity is another way to help fill the gap. Annuities offer tax-deferred growth opportunities and guaranteed lifetime income that could supplement some of the medical expenses in retirement. And, if you stay healthy, the annuity would continue generating retirement income for other expenses.

Disability should also be factored into your plan. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women are more likely than men to be disabled.7 Disability insurance could be invaluable for covering expenses in the short term, or providing income over the long term, if you become disabled — whether physically or mentally — and can’t work.

3. Don’t assume Social Security is enough

Social Security can play an important role in your retirement plan. And when and how you claim your benefits directly impacts your bottom line.

Normal retirement age ranges from 65 to 67, based on your birth year. Delaying these benefits, however, is something to consider when longevity risk is an issue. For each year you delay benefits past your normal retirement age up until age 70, your benefits increase by eight percent.8

Social Security is only part of the picture, however. Women also need to proactively invest for growth and, eventually, income. Fortunately, they’re equipped to do so. According to Capital Group, 44% of women take a thoughtful, long-term approach to investing and risk, and 52% of women are confident in their ability to make good investment decisions.9

Leveraging that confidence and approach to risk is crucial for building a portfolio that’s built for longevity. Understanding your tolerance for risk and your risk capacity — meaning how much risk you may need to take on to meet your objectives — can help you create an asset allocation that’s suited to your age, time frame for investing, and overall goals.

4. Start planning now

Once you have a better idea of your future needs — dreams, constraints, desires — then it’s time to get going. Perhaps the most important thing women can do when it comes to succeeding in retirement is to focus on it as early as possible.

When you’re just launching your career in your 20s and 30s, you may feel as if you have decades to plan, because you do. Or, if you’ve let some time slip by, it’s not too late to make a positive difference in your retirement outlook in your 40s, 50s, and beyond.

Throughout their working lives, women become adept at juggling the competing priorities of work and family commitments. Across a career and a lifetime, the choices you make — based on the specific responsibilities you face — will affect your ability to retire well.

The best way to manage longevity risk is to plan for it early and often. The sooner you begin giving serious thought to how much money you’ll need to retire, what challenges may keep you from reaching your goal, and how you can counter those challenges, the brighter your retirement future may be.

Remember, click here to register now for Prudential’s June 16, 2021 webinar: Is Your Financial House in Order?


Life insurance cash value is accessed via loans and withdrawals. Outstanding loans and withdrawals will reduce policy cash values and the death benefit and may have tax consequences.

All references to guarantees, including optional benefits, are backed by the claims-paying ability of the issuing company and do not apply to the underlying investment options.

 Rebecca Lake has been covering finance, investing, and small business for nearly a decade. Her work has appeared online at U.S. News & World Report, MSN Money, Business Insider, and Investopedia.


Member-of-the-Moment: Natassia Melendrez-Knutson

Natassia Melendrez-Knutson
CEO, Project Support Services Inc.

Industry: Construction
Website: http://www.psscert.com

WPO Chapter: Orange County III

How has being a WPO member helped your business?

Being a business owner can feel lonely at times and also have unique problems other relate to or understand if they own a business. WPO helped me know I AM NOT ALONE and provide solutions for the issues in my business

What challenges have you faced as a woman in business? 

Getting stuck in my head, feeling like the bad guy when I had to make employee related decisions, believing in myself at times.

What inspired you to start your business?

At my previous employer there was no room for growth or women in leadership. I was no longer happy and I had two choices to stay and be unhappy OR jump and start my own business. So I jumped!

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

You are not going to know all the answers and you’re going to have problems but figure out the questions you need to ask in order to get the answer you are seeking!

What lesson have you learned that can you share with other women entrepreneurs?

1. You are not always going to be liked as the BOSS, that’s ok!

2. Learn to dance in business, meaning, it doesn’t always go per plan and do not get stuck in it being perfect, learn to move with it.

3. Life is tough but you are tougher!

Why we’re cheering the first woman President in 100+ years

Company: SHP https://shp.com/
President & CEO: Lauren Della Bella (WPO Member)
City: Cincinnati, OH

Lauren has been with SHP for over three decades. She is President and the first woman to hold that position in the firm’s 100+ year history. Her entire career has been dedicated to the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry, and her achievements on SHP’s behalf have been extensive; she spearheaded the development of SHP’s nationally-recognized community engagement process and developed Insite Magazine, an award-winning SHP publication. She was also instrumental in the formation of the 9 Billion Schools movement and is the author of a book by the same name where she shares: “For maximum human flourishing, learning should be a highly personalized experience that lasts an entire lifetime.”

She is also laser focused on helping other women advance in their careers, and an inspiration to those who know her. Lauren exclaimed that she feels “so strongly about helping women excel in their careers, and it is so exciting to finally see a critical mass of women in leadership”

– Elaine Suess, Greater Cincinnati II Chapter Chair

Celebrating “Good with Every Bite”

Why we love…Chickapea

Company: Chickapea (https://chickapea.com)

Founder & CEO: Shelby Taylor (WPO Member)

City: Collingwood, Ontario Canada

Earth to Kids, Inc. was founded by Shelby Taylor and launched its first product line, Chickapea Pasta, into Canadian retail stores in 2016.

Chickapea is a pasta product made entirely from organic chickpeas and lentils – that’s it! It’s very high in protein, fibre, iron, magnesium, b vitamins and many other nutrients. They are certified gluten-free, organic, non-GMO, vegan and Kosher. Best of all, Chickapea actually tastes and cooks just like regular pasta.

The Earth to Kids office and Chickapea team are located in beautiful Collingwood, Ontario Canada. Chickapea is sold across Canada in both health shops and supermarkets, as well as in the US. They also offer a food service line for restaurants, schools, hospitals etc. — Jill Proud, South Georgian Bay Chapter Chair

Celebrating women-led companies!

Why we love…tHRiving

Company: tHRiving (www.tHRivinghr.io)

Founder & CEO: Cindi Filer (WPO Member)

City: Atlanta, GA

What we love about tHRiving: This incredible team of HR professionals take the worry out of all things HR, allowing small businesses to outsource their HR and get the same quality work that big companies enjoy! And their model of using HR directors who want a part-time work arrangement allows this to be done at an incredibly affordable price. If you know a small business that has been trying to do their HR without a true HR person (strategy, compliance, and day-to-day HR), we whole-heartedly recommend tHRiving. 

What we love about Cindi Filer, Founder and CEO of Innovative Outsourcing and tHRiving: Cindi is a longtime member of WPO Atlanta, and an incredible resource to all our members! We look to her for wisdom and creative ideas at every meeting! Cindi has been amazing during the Covid crisis, when HR issues became front and center for all our members. What would we have done without her? Lucky us! — Tiffany Alley, Atlanta GA Chapter Chair

Featuring Women Led Businesses and the Leaders Behind Them!

Why we love….Portland Pet Food Company

Company: Portland Pet Food Company (https://portlandpetfoodcompany.com/)

Founder: Kate McCarron (WPO Member)

City: Portland, OR

Kate’s elder dog was ill and so she started up a recipe for him in her kitchen, gave out samples to friends, and started researching pet food, using her medical background (completely aware of the toxicity of pet food and the fact that it is regulated but most foods are super unhealthy).  How can you not love someone committed to the health of our dear furry ones! — Kathy Long Holland, Portland OR Chapter Chair

Taxes and Retirement: What Women Need to Know

In recognition of Women’s History Month, Prudential shares this information to help women become aware of their unique financial challenges and help them in their journey to financial wellness.


  • Women outlive men in every country, while still earning less.
  • Various women-focused retirement strategies can help with your taxes now and in the future.
  • It’s key to check in with your financial situation as your life changes.

When it comes to women and money, there are some unique challenges to consider. Take the fact that women still earn 82 cents to every dollar that a man makes—and that was before the COVID-19 crisis hit. Also consider that 40% to 50% of marriages end in divorce. Some women (who have the choice) are opting out of the workforce to raise families, while others are the primary breadwinners in their family. On top of all that, according to the Population Reference Bureau, women tend to outlive men—in every single country.

As you can see, so many factors can affect women’s finances. This is why it’s especially important that women take charge of their financial future and come up with a tax-savvy retirement strategy.

Retirement strategies for women

There are a variety of ways you can save for retirement, but the key is to pick a strategy and be consistent, so you can build wealth over time. Since women live longer, it’s critical to start now and think ahead about your long-term financial goals. Two keys:

1. Consider tax-deferred products to lower your tax burden now

If you’re looking to reduce some of your tax burden now, look into tax-deferred products, such as IRAs and 401(k)s, as well as annuities. Using these retirement vehicles, your assets can grow tax-free until it’s time to take money out of the accounts.

Why is this important?

The federal taxes you pay each year can take a bite out of your income both now and in the future, affecting your financial goals for retirement.

2. Take a tax-diversified approach

This strategy involves using different types of retirement vehicles to help lower your tax obligations, whether now or in the future. For example, you can put your money in investments that are:

*Taxed now—things like stocks and mutual funds, as well as certificates of deposit (CDs). Investing in these can have tax consequences each year.

*Taxed later—retirement vehicles like IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s and annuities. These options have important guidelines to consider and may have certain penalties if you withdraw funds early.

*Tax-advantaged—Roth IRAs, municipal bonds and life insurance are considered tax-advantaged and have certain tax perks.

Tip: Think about your lifestyle, income, current financial goals and future financial goals when considering your investments. Do you expect your income tax bracket to be higher or lower after you retire? Does it make more sense to be taxed now or later? Which retirement vehicles will work best for your specific situation?

A long-term plan

According to the Social Security Administration, a woman who is 65 today can expect to live to be 86.6 years old. Not only that, but 25% of people who are 65 will live past age 90, while 10% will live past 95.

If you’re single…

You’re on your own to save for your financial future. While that can have its own challenges, there are things you can do to get ahead.

The first step is to save as much as you can for your retirement, while optimizing your tax strategy. The key is to fund your various retirement vehicles consistently to reap the most benefits.

It’s likely you’ll want to max out your tax-favored IRA  and 401(k) (or similar retirement plan) contributions, while also investing in things like taxable mutual funds or ETFs. Taking a diversified approach can help limit your risk while also getting the most out of your investments.

You also need to understand how your various investments affect your individual tax situation. Talking with a financial professional can help you figure out your best options.

If you’re married…

By age 50, more than 90% of people in Western cultures will have been married. This partnership can be a delicate financial balancing act. You want to make sure you’re in the know regarding your finances—and that you can take them over should something happen to your spouse. Having a life insurance policy can help make sure that your bases are covered.

When it comes to taxes: Are you filing jointly or separately? It’s important to know how your filing status may affect taxation of Social Security benefits, pension plans and more. All of this could affect what you owe in taxes as well as your future income.

If you’ve left the workplace to take care of your family, you may still contribute to an IRA. If you file taxes jointly, and your spouse has earned income, you can save for the future and also take advantage of some tax benefits.

Tip: Sit down with your partner to review whether you file jointly or separately. What are the pros and cons? Does your current decision align with both of your future retirement goals?

If you’re widowed…

Given that women outlive men everywhere, it’s not a surprise that many women could find themselves being widowed. The emotional burden alone is heavy. And dealing with all the financial issues around losing your spouse can be very challenging.

  • First, look into Social Security survivor benefits to see if you’re eligible.
  • Check on any lump-sum life insurance payments you may be entitled to receive.
  • If you’re a beneficiary of a retirement or any other financial account, or entitled to a defined benefit pension plan survivor benefit, contact the provider to get access. It’s important to figure out next steps for how you want to proceed as a beneficiary.
  • If your spouse was part of a defined contribution retirement plan like a 401(k), you’ll inherit the 401(k) unless you signed a waiver to indicate otherwise. Consider how you want the account to be distributed, and consult with a tax professional to understand how it can affect your taxes.

If you’re divorced…

Remember, 40% to 50% of U.S. marriages end in divorce, so heading into retirement as a divorcee is more common than you might think. While divorce can be emotionally distressing, it can also wreak havoc on your finances.

Here are some things to consider:

  • If you were divorced prior to 2019, you must report alimony you receive as income on your federal tax return.
  • If you’re paying alimony, and your divorce was final prior to 2019, you may be able to deduct the payments when you file your taxes.
  • There are other alternatives to consider, such as Alimony and Maintenance Trusts, and lump-sum payments. These options may be tax advantaged.

What you can do next

Given that so many things can change in relationships, families and lives, it’s critical to build a strong foundation for tomorrow. So, assess your current retirement savings plan(s).

How are the choices you’re making today preparing you to meet your financial needs for tomorrow? Identify one specific goal you have for retirement, then see what needs to happen today to set that dream in motion.

Please consult your tax and legal advisors for advice pertaining to your particular circumstances.

You and your employees are invited to Prudential’s March 17 webinar on the 6 Essentials of Estate Planning After Lockdown. Click here to register now.

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer and event planner living in Los Angeles. She is the co-founder of Lola Retreat, which is focused on empowering women with their money.