Planning for retirement isn’t an easy task — and it’s even more challenging for women. We have an ever-increasing life expectancy, so we’re more likely to live long enough to need assisted living or other types of senior care. We’re also more likely to be a caregiver for others, or to live solo due to widowhood. Yet, studies show that women are less likely to plan effectively for a long life.
Getting educated about retirement planning and learning how to make the right financial investments is a critical step to maximizing your life for the future. Women in particular need to plan ahead, especially if they want to continue to live comfortably and take care of their own needs in retirement.
- Women are more likely to age solo. Women are more likely to live alone in their older age, whether due to divorce, widowhood, or other reasons, and that often means bearing the financial burden of retirement solo, too.
- Women are more likely to have higher healthcare costs. The MetLife study mentions a variety of reasons for this, including less accessibility to insurance and more out-of-pocket expenses. Women are also more likely to either need long-term care themselves, or be the providers of long-term care.
- Women live longer. If you’re age 60 today in the U.S., and you’re female, says the report, you can expect to live to about 84 — but if you’re male, it’s 81. Having more years to live translates directly into more retirement costs.
Ways Women Must Approach Finances Differently
Women have historically needed to approach finances differently, and that’s another reason why we can get behind in our retirement planning.
Here are a few specific examples of how women’s financial situation significantly differs from men’s:
- Women are less likely to have a retirement plan. Although more women are participating in the workforce than ever before, they are less likely to have a retirement plan — either because they choose not to even if they qualify, or they work part-time and don’t qualify. Women are also likely to work fewer years if they take time off for caregiving or child rearing. What this all adds up to, is lower lifetime savings, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
- Women earn less than men: Not only are women more likely to work part-time, they only earn 81% of what men earned. That, of course, has nothing to do with our own financial behavior, but it translates into less contribution to pensions, savings and Social Security.
- Women invest more conservatively: Women are more likely to have a penny-pinching attitude when it comes to savings, but although we’re confident about our ability to stretch a dollar, we tend to be less confident when it comes to investing our money for the future. According to a TIME article, this may be because we feel we don’t know enough about it, or feel intimidated by the male-dominated financial world; in some cases, women were raised to consider investment to be the man’s domain.
What Should Women Be Doing to Plan for Senior Care?
In past eras, women tended to leave all the financial planning to men, in fact, many women today grew up surrounded by the attitude —conscious or not — that husbands take charge of the long term finances.
Obviously, this is an attitude we can’t afford. It may seem daunting, but women can start with a few simple strategies for saving:
- Come up with a contingency plan. Don’t wait for emergencies to actually happen before you figure out how to deal with them financially. Consider what contingencies are likely for your situation, whether it’s a health emergency or long-term care, and figure out how you plan to round up the necessary resources.
- Don’t delay. There’s no better time to start than now !
- Get educated and build your financial confidence. Research any financial planning matters you don’t understand, consult a variety of resources, and don’t be afraid to talk to a financial planner or investment expert. “Be careful not to conclude too quickly that you have ‘all the information you need,’” . Learn about insurance, savings plans and senior care costs.
- Learn about your retirement benefits. If your employer offers a retirement plan, join it and start saving now, and find out how long you need to contribute before you’re vested. If your spouse has a pension, Social Security or Veteran’s benefits, make sure you know what the rules are when it comes to spousal rights in cases of death or divorce, notes the Department of Labor.
- Review your finances regularly, and set a budget. In a Forbes article, CPA Laura McNutt suggests, “Once a year conduct a retirement analysis. Look at what you own, your spending needs and determine if what you have is going to accomplish those needs.” Be detailed about what your goals are and what you need to save to reach them.