Married women often find themselves in a unique situation when it comes to retirement planning: a lot of married couples only have one retirement plan. In a way, that makes perfect sense since most couples are planning to live long, happy lives together well into retirement. On the other hand, a shared retirement plan doesn’t always meet the needs of both parties.
Why Is Retirement Planning Different for Women?
Most women are in charge of their own finances at some point in their lives. Some get married later in life while others are widowed, divorce, or choose not to get married at all. As for married women, while it may seem easier to leave retirement planning to their spouse, they should also take an active interest in their financial future. If they outlive their spouse, the loss of a pension or Social Security check can really impact financial stability later in life.
In all of these cases, there are many reasons why retirement planning is different for women.
1. Women face a real and, at times, significant wage gap.
Woman make up about 50 percent of the workforce yet they still earn less than men in almost every occupation. The latest figures suggest that women who work full-time jobs earn only 80.5 cents on the dollar when compared to men, which is just about a 20% gap. There are a lot of things that lead to this, including women taking time away from their careers for family reasons, generally, women just make less money. Careers dominated by women don’t pay as much as those dominated by men. In the long run, this also means that women collect less Social Security and get fewer pension benefits than men.
2. Women’s healthcare costs are more expensive.
Overall, women end up paying upwards of $10,000 more than men in healthcare costs after retirement. The primary reason? Women live longer so they need care for a longer period of time.
Another thing to consider is the possibility of needing long-term care. Couples can usually manage to live independently, taking care of each other for a longer time than a widow who may need to pay for a nursing home or some other outside care or assistance.
3. Women are the primary caregivers.
Women tend to take the lead when their children are young. This could mean taking time out of their careers altogether to be stay-at-home moms or cutting back to part-time hours. Either way, women who take on the caregiver role miss out on prime years for maximizing 401(k) contributions and ultimately see less Social Security after retirement. Plus, if they divorce or are widowed, they may lack the support needed to advance their career which significantly affects their earning and saving potential.
It isn’t just mothers who are affected by this caregiver issue. Both mothers and women who choose not to have children are more likely to take on the caregiver role for elderly parents. This can drastically affect their working hours and job performance at the height of their careers.
4. Women are usually more conservative and secretive about finances.
Women typically invest more conservatively than men and are prone to playing it safe. While this might be a good approach in retirement, it also means less potential for growth during prime working years. It’s important for women to maximize their saving because, after retirement, they may need to use more than expected to supplement Social Security or pension benefits that aren’t quite enough.
Most women are also less likely to seek the help of a financial advisor for various reasons. Some feel finances are too personal to talk about while others are overwhelmed and don’t feel comfortable talking about money with a professional. Overcoming this attitude can be difficult but it is necessary for effective planning.
It’s Never Too Late to Get Involved in Your Financial Future
While there are a lot of issues to overcome, it’s possible for any women to have a personalized retirement plan that gives them a better foundation and the confidence of knowing that their savings will last as long as they need it.
The first step is to not be intimidated. You don’t have to be an expert on investing to get the answers you need from a financial planner and, remember, it’s never too late to work with your spouse on your financial future, even if you handed over the responsibility ages ago.
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