While it’s true that generalizations do not necessarily reflect the individual circumstances and therefore have limited value, there are fact-based reasons why the average woman faces greater hurdles than the average man does in securing her retirement. However, an awareness of the negatives and a proactive plan to take full advantage of some positives should demonstrate that retirement should not scare women.
More years of retirement and with fewer assets
The deck is stacked against most women before they even think about enjoying their first day of retirement. Some of the factors include:
• Longer life expectancy
• Greater likelihood of being the surviving spouse
• Wage gap as compared to male counterparts
• Less working years due to child rearing and caring for aging parents
One factor that may be interpreted as either positive or negative is risk tolerance. Women tend to invest more conservatively than men, which can lead to lower potential returns. Conversely, conservative investors tend to move money around less often and continuity can lead to more consistent growth in the long term.
Where one starts is seldom as important as where one ends up. Consider these strategic goals to level the retirement playing field:
• Save – Start early, continue to save and save as much as possible. Saving 20 percent of your income is a nice goal but maximizing what is practical is the ultimate goal.
• Know what is needed – In our sunset years, we tend to fear dying less than outliving our retirement money. One way to prevent that is to begin with knowledge of what it costs to live. Be realistic about expenses that are fixed and what will no longer be needed once work is no longer in the picture. Ideally, the fixed expenses of one year of retirement living is generated annually by retirement income.
• Invest the savings – This comes with one caveat – invest savings once an emergency fund for unexpected expenses is established. Most experts recommend six months of living expenses in cash assets as a minimum. Once that is accomplished, an asset allocation plan should be devised based primarily on age and ultimate financial goals.
• Keep working – Other than the satisfaction work can provide as wells as a longer timeline to save, extending working age past 65 pays dividends in social security benefits. Although many women are concerned social security may one day fail, experts predict its pending demise is over exaggerated. One thing that is certain is that the longer a worker waits before taking benefits, the better. Consider that at age 62 a worker receives 70 percent her full retirement benefits, but that number rises to 132 percent at age 70.
Include an estate plan
Careful planning includes what-if scenarios. Take the time to set up a will and more preferably a trust, as well as a financial power of attorney and durable power of attorney for healthcare.
There’s no reason any woman should fear retirement. A realistic analysis, a well-crafted plan and disciplined execution will go a long way towards a secure and serene future.