There are many challenges that affect retirement planning for women. On average, women have a longer life expectancy and a lower income than men. Due to their primary parenting or caretaker roles, women often spend a significant portion of their lives outside of the workforce, or working part-time.
Career Challenges for Women
Women are also less likely to have employer sponsored 401K plans, and twice as likely to depend on Social Security as their primary income after retirement. There are many questions women should ask themselves when planning for retirement: How much money will I need? What sources of income will I have during retirement? What if my spouse dies before me? How will the cost of living change over time? What if there is an emergency?
Women, even those who are not the primary source of their family income, should be aware of their retirement needs and begin actively planning for the future. What obstacles prevent women from planning for their retirement? What steps can they take to overcome these challenges?
Ways to Save for Retirement
It may seem that there is simply not enough money to set some aside for the future. Many people struggle to cover their daily expenses, especially during a recession. According to a December 2009 report by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 32 percent of women say that they are barely getting by.
Often, any money that is leftover goes toward paying off debt or saving for other future expenses, such as college tuition, a new car, or home maintenance. Though money may be tight, carefully tracking the family income and expenses often turns up one or two ways to save. Making a commitment to put a specific amount of each paycheck into savings is an important first step. The amount may be tiny at first, but the savings will add up over time. Once a habit of saving is established, it may become easier to set aside more when the opportunity arises.
Life Expectancy Challenges
Another common obstacle involves underestimating life expectancy. Women tend to outlive men, and too often they outlive their savings as well. However, living longer does not necessarily mean being able to work longer. Health or family concerns often make it necessary to retire earlier than planned. Women should plan on living longer and retiring earlier than they expect.
This means they will probably need to save more money than they realize. When asked how much money they would need to feel financially secure in retirement, women are likely to estimate half as much money as men claim they would need. On average, women estimate $500,000 for financial security, while men estimate needing $1 million.
Less Guess Work
According to the same 2009 Transamerica study, the majority of both men and women report that the financial estimate for their retirement needs is largely based on guessing. However, since 2007, the number of women who base their estimates on a guess has gone up three percent, while the number of men who simply guess their needs has gone down three percent.
Find a Financial Advisor
There are better approaches to estimating retirement needs and a financial advisor can help. When planning for retirement, expert advice is crucial. Many people, particularly women, report a lack of confidence when it comes to retirement planning. A professional financial advisor can answer questions and provide much needed guidance. A sound financial plan should help build a retirement savings plan that will provide daily living expenses and a reserve for emergencies.
A professional financial advisor can also help plan for the lighter side of retirement, including travel, hobbies and other entertainment expenses. It can be difficult to think about the future when the present is so demanding. However, planning for retirement is vital. Though women may face particular challenges when planning for their retirement years, there are many resources available to help. Making use of those resources now will help women maintain control over their own futures.