Saving for retirement can be a daunting task for the average American, but for half the population—women—it can pose even more challenges.
Why? Because women tend to live longer, save less, and not be as engaged as men when it comes to retirement and financial planning. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key issues that can affect women more than men, plus action steps you may want to consider.
Women live longer than men. Women generally live longer than men―three years more, in fact. Currently, there are nearly six million more women than men age 65 and over in the United States.1 So planning for a lengthy and financially healthy retirement―one that could last 30 years or more―is crucial. By taking an active role in your finances now, you can help ensure that you will have a reliable income stream that can help support your anticipated spending habits, housing needs, and leisure activities throughout retirement. Once you have an idea of how and where you want to live in retirement, you’ll want to reexamine your portfolio on a regular basis. Your desired future lifestyle may have a direct effect on the types of investments you consider to help build a reliable income stream.
Women often live alone. Because women tend to live longer, they are likely to outlive their spouses and spend considerable time alone in retirement. Today, 32% of women 65 and over live alone, compared with only 18% of men.2 There may be additional financial burdens that come with living alone, such as paying all the bills yourself, caring for your home, paying for long-term care, or moving to an assisted living facility.
Women save less than men. Unfortunately, because of historical work patterns and lower income levels, women are likely to enter retirement with fewer resources than men. Despite some progress in recent years, women still earn significantly less than men in almost every occupational classification. In 2016 women’s median earnings were 82 percent of men’s, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There is encouraging news here. In the technology field, women have closed the wage gap and are earning as much as men when education, level of experience and job titles are factored in.3 And among full year-full-time workers, men and women had comparable rates of retirement plan access and participation.4 Overall, however, women are less likely to participate in retirement plan than men because they are more likely to work part-time and have lower earnings.4
Women tend to have lower risk tolerance than men. Many women tend to be much less willing to invest a substantial sum in pursuit of higher returns if it means losing some or all of the initial investment.5 If you haven’t done so already, learning more about the importance of long-term growth for your retirement portfolio, the relationship between risk and return, the benefits of diversification and ongoing portfolio rebalancing, and the importance of tax-advantaged investing may be a great way to help ensure that your portfolio is balanced appropriately and is geared toward meeting your financial needs.
Women often lack investing confidence. Many women say they don’t feel fully secure about making financial decisions. According to Fidelity's Money FIT Women Study, 92% of women are eager to learn about financial planning, but only 47% are confident in talking money and investments with a professional.6 Be sure to cover any and all investing questions with your investment professional. Make a list of questions before your visit and ensure they get answered.
Prepare for the unexpected. Be prepared for potential threats that could jeopardize your financial security. This includes the risk of serious illness or disability, the threat of inflation or increasing tax liabilities, a sudden market downturn, and the risk of poor investment decisions or inappropriate risk management, to name just a few. Know where critical documents are kept and what you would need to do if a spouse or loved one were no longer able to assist with financial decision-making.
Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.
1 "A Profile of Older Americans: 2016," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016
2"Pew Social Trends," Pew Research Center, February 18, 2016
3 "Equal Pay Day is April 12 this year," money.cnn.com April 12, 2016
4 "Who’s In, Who’s Out: A look at access to employer-based retirement plans and participation in the states," Pew Charitable Trusts, January 2016
5 "Men vs. Women: Investing," Motif motif.com September 20, 2016
6 "Women & money: How to take charge," Fidelity Investments, March 23, 2016.
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