Women face common financial challenges in retirement, but preparing ahead of time can help you navigate any difficulties and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Learn the Pitfalls That Can Make this Transition Difficult
Retirement should be a time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor after years of hard work. Unfortunately for many women, retirement can come with a set of unique financial challenges that can make the transition difficult. From lower lifetime earnings, longer life expectancies, and caregiving responsibilities, to divorce, widowhood, and lack of financial literacy, there’s no shortage of pitfalls that can turn your golden years into a financial disaster. In this article, we’ll explore four of the financial challenges women face in retirement and steps you can take to help overcome them.
1. Lower Wages and Earnings
One of the biggest challenges facing women in retirement is lower lifetime earnings resulting from the gender pay gap. According to the Pew Research Center, women on average earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. This pay disparity causes both lower Social Security benefits and lower overall retirement savings.
To overcome this challenge, women can take steps to negotiate higher salaries throughout their careers, invest in their education, and improve their skills to increase earning potential. Women can also make a point to seek out employers who offer pay equity. Beyond that, consider working with a financial planner who is knowledgeable about your unique earnings profile and can help you create a retirement plan that accounts for your needs.
SEE ALSO: Why Women’s Wealth Matters
2. Longer Life Expectancy
Coupled with lower wages, women also tend to live longer than men. According to the Social Security Administration, a 65-year-old woman can expect to live until age 86.8 compared to 84.2 for a 65-year-old man. This means that, despite their lower lifetime earnings, women need to save more than men since their retirements often last longer. Higher healthcare costs can serve to exacerbate this issue. For instance, Fidelity estimates that the average woman enrolled in traditional Medicare will need $165,000 saved on an after-tax basis for all healthcare costs in retirement. That’s compared with $150,000 for men.
To help address this discrepancy, women (whether single or married) can consider Social Security strategies that allow them to achieve the maximum benefit amount. Another option to consider: saving as much as possible through tax-advantaged accounts.
Health Savings Accounts, for instance, can be a great way to save for the high cost of healthcare with contributions that are tax-deductible in the current year. HSAs can only be used if you participate in a high-deductible health plan, so they may not make sense for everyone. If you can afford to contribute to your HSA and pay for your healthcare expenses with your current income, then your HSA funds can be left to grow until retirement. At age 65, you can use your account to pay for any type of expense, but qualified medical expenses will be covered tax-free. This strategy can be an effective way for women to save for the high costs of healthcare in retirement.
3. Caregiving Responsibilities
Another major obstacle facing women in retirement is caregiving responsibilities. According to the CDC, women make up two-thirds of all caregivers in the United States. Not only do they leave the workforce to care for children, grandchildren, and aging parents, but women often times become the caregivers for their aging spouses as well. This can impact both the ability to save for retirement as well as the ability to enjoy retirement once you’re no longer working.
What’s more, women themselves require long-term care for an average of 3.7 years, but often don’t have a support system to care for them when they get sick. This can exacerbate an already tenuous financial situation.
This retirement challenge can be mitigated through several proactive steps. Women in retirement can seek out resources to help with managing caregiving responsibilities, including hiring a home health aide or using respite care services. Earlier in their careers, women can negotiate flexible work arrangements and paid maternity leave to allow for a better balance between work and caregiving responsibilities. You may also consider long-term care insurance to make sure you are properly protected in the event that you need care but don’t have a support system to rely on. Working with a financial professional can be a great first step in assessing your long-term care needs.
4. Divorce and Widowhood
Divorce and widowhood can have a significant impact on a woman’s retirement finances.
When a woman gets divorced, she may face a reduced income and will likely have to split her assets and savings, resulting in a diminished retirement fund. Additionally, the expenses for living alone may increase, further straining her financial resources.
Similarly, the death of a spouse can profoundly affect a widow’s financial situation, as she will likely lose a significant portion of household income. In many cases, divorce or widowhood may be the first time a woman is fully in charge of her finances, which can be a scary new role to take on later in life. It is crucial that women going through divorce or widowhood surround themselves with a strong support system, including friends, family, a reputable attorney, and a trusted financial professional. Assessing your finances and creating a budget for your new lifestyle can be effective first steps in beginning the next chapter of your life.
In the case of widowhood, spouses can plan ahead for this scenario by being intentional with how they claim Social Security and other pension benefits. You may consider delaying the larger of the two Social Security benefits until age 70 to maximize the Survivor Benefit. If you or your spouse has a pension plan, consider selecting the joint and survivor benefit option so that the surviving spouse has a source of recurring income in the event of widowhood.
Partner with a Professional to Navigate Financial Challenges
Navigating retirement can be confusing even in the best of circumstances. For women, these unique obstacles can make it even more challenging. At Aviance Capital Partners, we believe our personalized wealth planning process can help you make the most of your retirement planning and avoid these common pitfalls. Schedule an introductory phone call or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started today.
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