According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States’ population in 2013 was almost 317 million people. Of that body, 14.1% were individuals aged 65 years and older. Women composed 50.8% of the population and men 49.2%.
There are more people reaching retirement age than ever. And retirement planning is a critical component of having a secure future. But planning for retirement is a different process for women than it is for men. Women have different concerns, needs, and goals, and these differences should be accounted for in their retirement blueprint.
Let’s take a look at some of the factors which can influence women’s retirement, and how these factors can shape their planning for the future.
Trends for Women in Retirement Planning
Different Perceptions than Men – Surveys show women take a different approach to their retirement than men do. In these polls, men were more willing to wait for a problem – for example, unexpected emergency expenses – to arise than to plan for it ahead of time. Women report a preference for having the security of pre-planned solutions in case of any emergencies or other unforeseen circumstances.
If they’re married, women are likely to be influenced by the timing of their spouse’s decision to retire. Caregiving needs for their spouse or other family members have also been shown to be a big influencer.
Longer Life and Longer Disability – At present, women comprise the majority of older Americans. On average, women outlive men who are the same age by three to four years. They’re also expected to have some disability for a longer period than men. Men who are 65 are expected to have 1.5 years of mild or moderate disability, and then 1.5 years of more severe disability.
In contrast, women age 65 are expected to have 3.0 years of mild or moderate disability. Thereafter, women are expected to spend 2.8 years with more severe disability. In turn, it can greatly impact their long-term care and healthcare expenses.
Impact of Family Life – Women’s decisions about their family now and in the future has a strong bearing on their retirement. Many women choose to leave the workplace or reduce their work hours for the purpose of caregiving. It may be for children or older family members.
Any work departure or reduction, in turn, affects Social Security benefits. If they have a defined-benefit pension plan with their employer, the benefits won’t be as strong. Women also average lower pay and fewer years in the labor force than do men. So, in short, dropping out for the purpose of caregiving can impact retirement security. It’s been estimated caregivers who remove themselves from the work force can lower their lifetime wealth by $303,800.
Shortfalls in Planning – Even though they have a longer life expectancy, many women plan for the same period of time as men do. Both men and women tend to plan for too short a period. However, any shortfalls in planning can impact women even greater (due to their longer life expectancy).
It’s important for women to be sure they will have enough resources for their retirement. Their longer life expectancy puts them at greater risk of outliving their retirement funds.
Tips for Effective Retirement Planning
Given these factors and others, it’s important for women to be sure they have adequate resources for the future. Here are some tips which will help with not only planning for retirement, but building a secure foundation:
- Start building a support network of family, friends, and professional assistants (if appropriate)
- Engage with your partner in decisions about a defined employee benefit plan
- With your partner, build a retirement plan that accounts not only for your time together, but also if you are no longer together
- In that case, planning should be based on the partner who is likely to live longer
- When making important life decisions, consider how it can impact future retirement security (for instance, taking a job, getting married or divorced, or leaving a current employment position)
- Be careful when you’re considering the withdrawal of retirement funds to support family members
- Also exercise caution if you decide to cut on retirement savings and reallocate that money toward helping a loved one or friend
- Consider all future expenses (healthcare costs, living expenses, long-term care costs) and weigh the risks and potential factors which can increase these costs
- Investigate different investment options which can offer fund growth, tax sheltering, and principal protection, but which also has suitable investment risks
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