3 Unique Retirement Challenges for Women

If there’s one place men and women should think a bit differently, it’s in the realm of preparing for retirement.

That’s because if you’re female, your retirement needs are quite a bit different than the needs of men.

But if you read the headline and assumed this article was only directed at women, that wouldn’t be accurate. That’s because males owe it to their female partners to do their best to learn how your financial needs differ.

How so?

Here are 3 unique retirement challenges that women face.

1) A Longer Life Means a More Expensive Life

Women live an average of 3-5 years longer than men.[1]

Unfortunately, not all of those 3-5 years are likely to be healthy. In fact, over the course of retirement, women will average 5.8 years’ worth of mild-to-severe disability, which is twice as long as men.

This 5.8 years of health challenges comes to an average of $100,000 in additional out of pocket expenses. [2]

Women and partners: Talk to your advisor to plan for ways to cover those healthcare expenses before they occur.

2) Women Retire Earlier to Take Care of Partners and Children

According to the Society of Actuaries, women are not only four times more likely (than men) to experience a forced retirement (to be the caregiver for a loved one), those women who retire prior to age 60 by choice can see their net worth fall by almost $300,000.[3]

In some instances, if possible, combining disability insurance, Medicare and Social Security (depending on your partner’s age), and in-home private professional caregiving (so that you can continue working) may prove to be the best financial option over time.

If your partner or a child becomes ill, while it’s natural to want to stay home and care for them, review your long-term options (including working part time), first.

3) Women, In Spite of Impressive Financial Gains, Still Aren’t Saving Enough

Here are some interesting numbers:[4]

  • 45 percent of American millionaires are women
  • 44 percent of household primary income earners are women
  • Women control 39 percent of America’s investible assets

The numbers above have more than doubled in the last 20 years.

But women save between 10 percent and 20 percent less than men.

While the male/female pay gap is narrowing, and certainly accounts for some of the discrepancy in saving, even when you compare men and women with identical salaries, men are still 13 percent more likely to say that their greatest financial priority is “…saving for retirement.” [5]

I’ve read studies that state that in 20-years women will control almost 60 percent of America’s wealth. The proportion of women-to-men (19-year olds) enrolled in college (72 percent of women, 62 percent of men) certainly adds credence to that assessment.

But you’re preparing for retirement now, not 20 years from now. Don’t be caught in the middle, which is to say, a woman who earns a good salary but doesn’t save.

If you are partnered and saving for retirement, speak with your advisor about the very real possibility that one of you may live years longer than the other. How do you prepare? If you’re a single female, work with your advisor to determine if your retirement planning is preparing you for the health and longevity variances between the genders.


[1] Forbes April 8th, 2015 Key Retirement Concerns
[2] Time Magazine August 2013
[3] Forbes April 8th, 2015 Key Retirement Concerns
[4] CNBC January 19th, 2017 For Women, Retirement Can be a Serious Challenge
[5] The Street October 9th, 2016

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