While everyone should plan for retirement, certain factors can pose specific challenges and threats to a woman’s retirement. After all, when it comes to retirement, women have it harder. They face challenges that many men don’t. A past blog highlighted the motherhood penalty which gives rise to the gender pay gap and also can reflect the impact of acting as a caregiver for others. Another addressed the impact of longer life spans and caregiving responsibilities. This week’s blog discusses six more threats to a woman’s retirement. It also offers some ways to address these challenges.
Threats to a Woman’s Retirement.
1. Divorce and Widowhood.
Apprise focuses on wealth management for women facing new beginnings. Our goal is to help them flourish through life’s big changes. After all, life is full of unexpected twists and turns. Two of the most significant life events that can pose threats to a woman’s retirement are divorce and widowhood. These life changes can result in more than emotional and logistical challenges. They can also pose significant threats to a woman’s financial security in retirement.
During a divorce, assets accumulated during the marriage are divided. The process can be costly. It can also result in a significant reduction in the financial resources available to both partners. Even worse, women often face a greater financial burden as they may take on primary caregiving responsibilities and interrupt their career paths.
Some women may have to “start over” after a divorce. The diminished savings that result can make it even more challenging to rebuild a secure nest egg.
Widowhood can potentially be even more difficult than divorce. It often leads to a significant reduction in household income, as the surviving spouse may no longer have access to their partner’s earnings or pension benefits. This income loss can make it challenging to maintain the same standard of living and continue saving for retirement.
The death of a spouse can give rise to unexpected financial burdens. These can include funeral expenses, medical bills, and legal fees. Managing unplanned expenses can often strain retirement savings. It can also create financial instability for women in their later years.
While women may be eligible for Social Security survivor benefits based on their deceased spouse’s work history, these benefits will be lower than the combined couple received during their joint lifetime. Or their spouse’s benefit could be lower than it would be if they lived a full life.
It’s important to remember that the average widow is only 59. Losing a spouse while also having caregiving responsibilities for children can also negatively impact a woman’s earning potential.
Both divorce and widowhood can create more than just financial implications. They also bring emotional and logistical challenges. Grief, stress, and the need to navigate new responsibilities can divert attention from long-term financial goals.
What You Can Do:
- Going through divorce or widowhood can be mentally challenging. A support group can help. Widows may want to reach out to the Modern Widows Club. There are local support groups for divorced women as well.
- Consult with a financial advisor or planner such as Apprise. An advisor can help you assess your current financial situation, create a budget, and explore strategies to rebuild savings. You will also want to update estate planning documents such as wills, beneficiary designations, and powers of attorney to reflect new circumstances. Remember that if you don’t change your beneficiary designations after divorce, your ex-spouse can still inherit your financial assets if you die first.
- Don’t sacrifice your financial independence when you get married. Maintain your own retirement savings and investment accounts. These accounts can provide a safety net.
- Explore life insurance options to provide financial protection to you and your dependents and ensure a secure future. Long-term care insurance can also help address potential healthcare costs during retirement.
2. Career Interruptions.
When it comes to caregiving responsibilities, women often shoulder a disproportionate burden. They may take career breaks or cut their work hours to care for children, aging parents, or other family members. Unfortunately, these interruptions can limit their earnings potential and cause them to miss out on promotions, raises, and valuable work experience. They can also result in lesser employer-sponsored retirement benefits. These factors can lead to lower retirement savings.
In addition, the time, energy, and financial resources required for caregiving can meaningfully impact a woman’s retirement outlook. These factors can limit income and result in competing financial responsibilities. They can make it harder to allocate adequate resources toward retirement savings. Inadequate retirement savings can result, and her financial security can be jeopardized.
What You Can Do:
- While it can be challenging, women should prioritize their retirement savings. They can do this by automating contributions to their retirement accounts. Make saving for retirement a non-negotiable part of the budget. Every dollar saved today can meaningfully impact future financial security.
- Build a support network. You can seek assistance and support from family, friends, or community resources. A support network can help alleviate some of the caregiving burdens. It can also provide time for self-care and financial planning.
- You can also consult with a financial advisor such as Apprise who understands the unique challenges women face in balancing caregiving and retirement planning. Apprise can work with you on your life plan as well as guide you on matters such as maximizing savings and exploring suitable investment strategies. Please click here if you would like to schedule a free call to discuss your situation. Apprise believes that life planning represents financial planning done right.
3. Part-Time or Non-Traditional Work.
Part-time or non-traditional work often results in lower income compared to full-time employment. Lower income means women often have limited opportunities to save for retirement and contribute to employer-sponsored retirement plans. This can also reduce the likelihood that they receive matching contributions for their retirement savings. Weaker earnings and contributions can have a lasting impact on a woman’s long-term financial security. Such work may also not provide access to other employer-provided retirement benefits such as pensions. Access to employer-sponsored healthcare benefits may also be limited.
Social Security benefits are calculated based on an individual’s earnings history. If part-time or non-traditional work leads to lower average lifetime earnings, women may receive lower Social Security benefits during retirement.
The combination of lower income and potentially irregular work hours can make it harder for women to contribute to retirement savings accounts. This can hinder the potential growth of their investments. It can also weaken the compounding effect of long-term savings, resulting in a smaller retirement nest egg.
What You Can Do:
- Make saving for retirement a priority. Allocate a percentage of your income towards retirement, adjusting as needed to ensure consistent contributions.
- Don’t forget about healthcare costs. Factor them into your retirement planning. Evaluate options such as private health insurance, Medicare, or health savings accounts (HSAs) to ensure adequate coverage. Budget accordingly.
- Consider additional income streams as well. These can include rental properties, investments, or freelance work. While they may come with other concerns or obligations, any of these can supplement part-time or non-traditional work income. Diversifying income sources can benefit your financial stability during retirement.
4. Increased Need for Long-term Care.
The potential need for long-term care serves as another potential threat to a woman’s retirement. Longer life expectancy is generally viewed positively. But it also leads to more years of potential health challenges and greater reliance on assistance for daily activities. In addition, women experience higher rates of disability than men. Conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease contribute to women’s higher disability rates. These conditions often result in the need for long-term care, including assistance with mobility, personal care, and healthcare management.
What You Can Do:
- Consider purchasing long-term care insurance, especially when you are younger and healthier. You will generally pay lower premiums when policies are purchased earlier. Insurance coverage can provide a safety net for future care needs as well.
- Make long-term care considerations part of your retirement plan. You will want to factor in the possibility of needing assistance when determining your retirement savings goals. Apprise considers potential long-term care costs as part of every client’s financial plan.
- Don’t forget about your health. Taking proactive steps to maintain your health can reduce the risk of disabilities or chronic conditions. Exercising regularly, eating right, and staying socially active can all help.
5. Increased Chances of Living Alone.
A growing number of older adults prefer the independence and autonomy that come with living alone. Married women are typically younger than their spouses. They also tend to live longer. This increases the likelihood they could be forced to live on their own. These factors present specific threats to a woman’s retirement. Living alone means you don’t have anyone to share household expenses with. Housing options that cater to the needs and preferences of older adults can lead to higher housing costs or inadequate living conditions. As a result, it can be more challenging to find suitable, affordable housing.
Another factor to consider is social isolation. Living alone can have adverse effects on emotional well-being and overall quality of life. It can also lead to feelings of loneliness and make it more challenging to maintain an active social life. Social isolation can also affect mental health. As a result, retirement may be less fulfilling.
What You Can Do:
- Prioritize savings and financial planning early on. When allocating resources, consider the potential challenges of living alone. You may want to develop a budget that accounts for housing costs, utilities, and other necessary expenses. As noted above, long-term care planning can also help.
- Downsizing or co-housing represent other options worth considering. Either of these can help reduce housing costs and maintenance responsibilities. They can also provide companionship and alleviate financial burdens.
- Don’t forget about community engagement and building a support network, too. You can participate in community activities, join clubs or organizations, and connect with like-minded individuals. The creation of a strong social circle can help in the battle against social isolation. They can also provide emotional support.
6. Financial Literacy.
Financial literacy represents a crucial skill set. It empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their money and secure their financial futures. After discussing the importance of financial literacy, I’m going to take a different approach to the sixth of these threats to a woman’s retirement.
A solid understanding of retirement planning concepts can cause you to struggle to effectively save and invest for your future. A lack of knowledge about retirement accounts, investment options, strategies, and the different tax rules that apply can hinder your ability to grow your retirement savings and make appropriate financial decisions.
It’s often said that women have lower financial literacy than men. However, in preparing a three-part female investor workshop that I have offered in the past, I came across some interesting research. (You can find the first workshop in this series when I hosted it in February 2022 here – I discussed financial literacy beginning about 5:50 into the workshop.) This research stated that oftentimes women know as much or more than men about finances and investing. But they lack confidence. Women are more likely to respond “I don’t know” than men when that is a possible answer for a multiple-choice question. In the quizzes I gave during my workshops, I excluded “I don’t know” from the possible answers. This improves the results.
When it comes to investing, women are often more conservative than men. This can have positive or negative implications. Women trade less often than men. This can reduce costs and improve returns.
What You Can Do:
- If you do not believe you are financially literate, you can work to become more educated. This can include online courses, books, and workshops that focus on personal finance and retirement planning. It can help to build a foundation of financial knowledge that helps you make more informed decisions about saving, investing, and managing money effectively.
- You can engage with a financial advisor or planner who can provide personalized guidance. Part of the reason for choosing the name Apprise Wealth Management was that “apprise” means to inform. I appreciate the opportunity to work with others and help them understand financial concepts. If you want to understand the why behind any of Apprise’s recommendations, you only need to ask.
- An advisor can help you with your financial plan – or even better, a life plan. They can also provide guidance allowing you to better understand your investment options, create a retirement savings strategy, and maximize Social Security benefits.
- You can also consider connecting with women’s financial empowerment groups or mentorship programs. These can provide a supportive community and offer guidance from experienced individuals. Sharing experiences and working with and learning from others can bolster confidence and accelerate financial literacy growth.
Closing Thoughts: Threats to a Woman’s Retirement:
To mitigate these threats to a woman’s retirement, women need to prioritize retirement planning, saving consistently, investing wisely, and seeking professional financial advice if needed. Additionally, advocating for fair pay and workplace benefits and taking steps to improve financial literacy can help address these challenges.
It is also important to recognize the importance of self-care while juggling caregiving and retirement planning. Prioritize physical and emotional well-being, seek respite when needed, and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Taking care of oneself is crucial for long-term sustainability and effective caregiving.
If you would like to talk to us about financial topics including your investments, creating your life plan, saving for college, or saving for retirement, please complete our contact form or schedule a call or a virtual meeting via Zoom. We will be in touch.
Next week, please look for our Tuesday Tips video blog.
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Phil Weiss founded Apprise Wealth Management. He started his financial services career in 1987 working as a tax professional for Deloitte & Touche. For the past 25+ years, he has worked extensively in the areas of financial planning and investment management. Phil is both a CFA charterholder and a CPA.
Located just north of Baltimore, Apprise works with clients face-to-face locally and can also work virtually regardless of location.