Women, Their Partners and Retirement

What you need to know, what you should do.

While the financial needs of modern retirees continue to evolve, probably no group faces more challenges than women.

Here are two facts that make retirement for women more expensive (than it is for men), followed by an emerging trend that needs to be celebrated.

1) Women are Likely to be Alone During Retirement

Here’s an eye-opening statistic: 60 percent of men over the age of 85 are married, compared to just 15 percent of women. [1]

While the gap between those numbers may initially make you scratch your head, there are two very logical reasons for it. First, women who divorce after age 60 are less likely to remarry, in part, because, second, women continue to outlive men by a wide margin. [2]

Just how much longer do women live?

It depends on what criteria you use, but according to the National Center for Health Statistics, on average, women now live five full years longer than men (81.1 to 76.1 years). [2]

Take a moment to consider a five-year lifespan differential. It means that retirement for millions of women will last 20% (or more) longer than it does for men.

So that means it’s “merely” 20% more expensive, right?

Well, for starters.

But when you calculate that women pay an average of $80,000 more in healthcare during retirement, and then you add on the costs of living (housing, food, transportation), and you consider inflation and the loss of purchasing power, you can begin to understand the unique financial challenges that millions of women face. [2]

2) At All Stages of Life, Women are More Likely to be a Caregiver

Both in their younger years and once they retire, and for both single females and those in long-term partnerships, women are more likely than men to enter into a caregiving role.

How much more likely?

66% of all non-paid health related caregiving is done by females.[3] The average amount of time spent caregiving? About 20 hours every week for an average of four years (which is 50% more than men). [3]

This discrepancy is a double whammy that impacts both younger and older women, but differently.

For younger women (and especially single women), it means they are more likely to take time off from work to care for a parent or child. This results in an interruption to, not only the career, but also the saving momentum. Simply, when you take time off from work, your contributions to your retirement accounts slow or even stop. Additionally, when a woman takes a break from her career, it’s easy to surmise that possible promotions and higher pay are casualties.

But the caregiving role also creates a problem for older, married women who become widowed. The odds are excellent that because the male is more likely to die first, there’s an acceleration to the depletion of the retirement accounts from things like expensive long-term care and hospice.

And less money in the retirement accounts likely means lower cumulative returns on investments, smaller account balances and a subsequent faster depletion of resources. The risk of running out of money for a surviving caregiver increases exponentially with each year.

3) The Good News: Women are Becoming More Likely to seek Financial Advice

Surveys have historically shown that men are more likely to seek financial advice than women, but this might simply be due to the fact that men are still more likely to manage the family finances. [4]  

As women now control more wealth than ever before, it stands to reason that some recent studies showing the trend toward women seeking financial advice as often as men will continue.[5]

But we haven’t achieved anything resembling a level playing field, yet. So what can men and women do to alleviate the financial disadvantages retired women face?

First, a word to married males who are in control of the family finances.

If your partner is in the dark about how the money’s invested, doesn’t know where the accounts are located, or she’s unaware of the status or specifics of any of your communal assets, if you suddenly die (or become incapacitated), it will cost time, money, frustration, hurt and undue hardship to sort it all out.

While not a pleasant topic, if you and your partner are preparing for retirement, it’s important to consider that you are not building a future just for the two of you, but also for the life that she may have if you pre-decease her.

Second, for married women, even if you’ve never shared in this process before, it’s likely time to join your husband in his meetings with the family advisor. What you don’t know could hurt both of you down the line.

Third, for those women who are single, vowing to meet with a credentialed, fiduciary advisor who has to prioritize your interests, and who can assess your circumstances based on lifespan projections, current income, Social Security tables, and your savings and future financial needs, is something you must do as soon as possible.

For more information on the unique retirement needs of women, or if you’d like more information about the retirement planning process, contact us today.


[1] https://www.thebalance.com/how-women-s-retirement-risks-are-different-than-men-s-2388857
[2] https://www.cnn.com/2017/12/21/health/us-life-expectancy-study/index.html
[3] https://www.caregiver.org/women-and-caregiving-facts-and-figures
[4] https://www.thebalance.com/how-women-s-retirement-risks-are-different-than-men-s-2388857
[5] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/study-finds-men-significantly-more-likely-to-seek-out-financial-advice-than-women-300439019.html

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