John J. Diak, CFP®
Unique Issues Women Face When Planning for Retirement
While women have made great strides in recent decades when it comes to earning power and access to financial education and resources, they continue to face unique financial challenges that must be taken into consideration when planning for retirement.
Women continue to struggle with financial confidence and decision making. And it’s a lack of confidence that tends to weigh on women as they strive to earn, save, and follow retirement investing strategies. But knowledge is power and one of the most impactful ways of dealing with challenges is becoming more aware, educating yourself, and making continual progress.
Here are the unique challenges women face when planning for retirement and helpful suggestions for overcoming them.
The Gender Pay Gap
Much has been said in the media about equal pay for women, and no matter where you stand on the issue, its causes, or proposed solutions, the fact remains the majority of women are paid less money than men and this is an issue that impacts retirement planning.
According to data collected by PayScale.com, the median salary men earn is approximately 21 percent higher than women’s median salary. For many women, lower pay makes it more difficult to live below their means, make ends meet, save money, and invest responsibly.
While you may not see major shifts in the gender pay gap during your earning years, you can make a concerted effort to increase your personal income to the best of your ability.
You may have to make sacrifices to take a higher paying job, learn new skills, get comfortable with negotiating your salary and asking for a raise, or get a second income by taking on side gigs. It might not be easy and it might not seem fair that women make less, but ultimately, doing what you can to increase your income now can go a long way toward improving your retirement outlook in the future.
Child Rearing and Caregiving
In our society, women are more likely to take on primary childcare and caregiving roles in the family. While many women welcome and embrace the opportunity to become a stay-at-home mom, homemaker, or caretaker for disabled or elderly family members, this is almost always unpaid work and it comes at a significant financial cost that can impact their financial health in retirement.
According to economist Michael Madowitz, on average, a woman who takes a 5-year break from her career starting in her mid-twenties will lose out on $467,000 over her lifetime in income, benefits, wage growth, and retirement assets.
Even if you believe prioritizing full-time care for your children is priceless and totally worth the sacrifice, it is a hefty price to pay when considering retirement. Having a part-time job or starting a home-based business can make a significant positive financial impact on your retirement planning.
When an elderly parent needs care, daughters are often more likely to take on the unpaid job, even if that means quitting a good-paying job with benefits. Not only are they missing the income and earning opportunities, but this often occurs later in their career, making it difficult to find a new job in their 40s, 50s, or 60s after their parents pass away.
No matter how much you love your parents and feel like they are your responsibility, look into options that will allow you to keep your job. If you can’t maintain full-time employment, enlisting the help of family members or asking the family to pitch in and provide some income can be helpful. You can’t afford to put yourself last and you have to think about your financial future over the long-term.
Single Living and Widowhood
More women than ever are unmarried, divorced, or widowed during their lifetimes. This means more women than before are striving for financial independence and planning for retirement alone.
If you are married and your husband handles the finances, keep in mind that you can become widowed or divorced at any time. You might not want to think about it, but it happens to unsuspecting women every day at any age, so you need to be knowledgeable about your financial circumstances. No matter how close you are with your spouse or how much you trust his guidance, you have to be prepared to take over your own finances at any time.
If you’ve been married, you may be eligible to receive a pension or income from your former spouse’s retirement plan, but it’s critical that you confirm eligibility, know what sources of income you’ll be entitled to, make sure all of the paperwork is in order, and keep in mind that whatever income is coming your way may not be sufficient to cover your living expenses.
Despite all of the issues women encounter when it comes to planning for retirement, the best way to overcome challenges is to meet them head-on, armed to the hilt with knowledge and tools to create your own advantages. It’s important to educate yourself, learn the language of money and investing, and ensure you fully understand the entirety of your financial circumstances.
You can’t afford to stay in the dark and leave money matters up to your spouse, a trusted family member, or even your financial planner. While it’s great to have outside input, guidance, and somewhere to turn with questions, it’s up to you alone to know enough to ask informed questions and understand financial documents.
Look carefully at every source of retirement income you’re counting on and make certain all of your paperwork is correct and complete. Get a clear idea of what your real expenses are and determine if your retirement income and resources will be enough to cover what you need. Don’t allow yourself to be blindsided; start now, and go through it all with a critical eye, looking for holes and shortcomings, so you can make adjustments as needed.
When you’re able to make retirement planning decisions with the full picture in front of you, everything will be easier, so recognizing your unique challenges as a woman, shoring up your resources, and equipping yourself with financial literacy is key to making the most of your financial future. It’s never too late to start planning for your retirement, but the sooner you get started the better.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
This material was prepared by Crystal Marketing Solutions, LLC, and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate and is intended merely for educational purposes, not as advice.