Women live longer than men, on average. And that’s mostly a blessing. But, as with a lot of things, it could be somewhat problematic in retirement. Here’s why.
The fact is, women face a unique set of issues that may require a somewhat different approach to financial planning.
“The average life span for women is 8% longer than for a man,” says Deana Arnett, senior planning consultant for Rosenthal Wealth Management Group. “For a woman who expects to retire at the same age as her male counterpart, they’re going to need more money.”
RETIREMENT: Planning for your future
“Women will have 25 to 30 years in retirement,” says Lisa Hutter, senior vice president and regional wealth manager at Wells Fargo Private Bank. “They are more likely to manage their finances (themselves) because they live longer and 50% of marriages end in divorce.”
The top tips for women from financial planners:
1. Find a financial adviser. “If you don’t have an adviser, find an adviser,” says Hutter. “That’s because an adviser can help coordinate a lot that will have to happen administratively. They can also help educate you about investments and asset allocation. “Remember, studies show women know less about investing and the stock market,” she says. “A lot of time they know less because they’ve been busy with other things: taking care of the children, taking care of the house, or taking care of their husband.” Adds Arnett: “Even the most financially literate woman should have her own financial planner who knows her situation and can serve as the go-to person before they make that trip. Having a backup to double-check that math is invaluable.”
2. Do the numbers. “Start with your current budget,” says Arnett. “If you don’t know, get an average of everything you spent money on in the last six months. Since you have a starting budget, look at every line item on the budget. It will go up or go down, stay or go away in retirement. Once you have categorized each line item of that budget as one of those four, you can start creating a retirement budget.” “They have to take a financial assessment of their current situation,” says Sandy Franks, executive director of wealth manager Contrarian Profits and publisher of Women’s Financial Edge. “What are your sources of income now, and what will they be in retirement? What expenses do you have; which ones will stay and what will go away?” Arnett also says women should try to go into retirement debt-free or as close to it as possible. “A lot of people go into retirement with a mortgage on their home,” she says. “Work it out so it is a manageable mortgage. Unless you have a huge pension or huge saving, going into retirement with a $500,000 mortgage just isn’t a smart thing.”
3. Be involved in your family’s finances. Scott Holsopple, managing director of retirement solutions at The Mutual Fund Store, says women need to be involved in financial matters, especially since they are likely to outlive their husbands. “Make sure you attend a meeting with your adviser. We say make sure you take control of that meeting. Come prepared with questions to ask so that you get your needs taken care of as well.” Holsopple also recommends that spouses switch roles so they know finances from all directions. “If one is paying bills and the other is meeting with the financial adviser, change those roles so you get the exposure.”
4. Think about what retirement looks like. “We hear stories all the time about one spouse stays at home and one is retired. It throws their lives up in the air a little bit,” says Holsopple. “Will you both be home or travel? Have a conversation about that before you retire. After retirement it becomes a much more stressful conversation.” “The first thing I like to tell women when they are thinking about retirement is to think about what you want it to be,” says Franks. “You have to start picturing that in your head. Do you see yourself staying at home like my parents? Maybe you want to volunteer. Maybe you want to work part time. Maybe you want to pursue a hobby. Maybe you want to travel. They have to think about that retirement vision,” she says. “Unfortunately, it’s something that women don’t do enough.”
5. Know your Social Security options. “The most important thing they can do is to do their research on claiming Social Security,” says Laura Bos, manager of financial security at AARP. “Women are in a different situation than men. Their financial situation could be riskier. They could have taken time out to care for a child or parent.” Financial planners say it is important do do everything you can to maximize your benefits. That may mean waiting, and not taking benefits at 62. The longer you wait, the higher the benefit. You may also want to take your spouse’s benefits if they are higher than your own. In some cases women have less time in the workforce and at lower salaries, due to the time raising children. In those cases the husband’s benefits may be higher. “That can really make a difference in their financial security in their retirement years,” says Bos. “The best way to do that is sit down and crunch the numbers.”
6. Figure out a way to stretch your retirement benefits. “They may consider working part time to stretch those retirement dollars or turn that hobby into a part-time job,” says Bos. “I would recommend for retirees to do what they love,” says Lisa Colletti, director of wealth management at Aspiriant. “If you find you are coming up a little short in your nest egg, consider working part time for a few years. It will improve cash flow, improve Social Security benefit and perhaps improve your overall well-being as you transition into this new phase of your life.”
7. Account for health care costs. “You have to think about health care cost,” says Franks. “Women have higher health care costs then men. Health care costs for women run about $5,600 (annual). And men pay about $4,900.” “Sit down and calculate what health care costs will be in retirement,” says the AARP’s Bos. “It often catches people by surprise how much they have to pay out of pocket. Health care costs can dramatically (affect) what your financial needs are.”