How Women Can Overcome Obstacles to Retirement

Craig Walker |

Retirement planning requires forethought, discipline, and the juggling of many moving parts. Staying on track to meet financial goals can be tricky for anyone, but it can be especially hard for women, who face a number of financial headwinds.

Women face unique challenges when it comes to employment, income, and caregiving; as a result, they often must take a different approach when it comes to preparing for a financially secure future. Here’s a look at some of the retirement hurdles women face and how to address them.

The Challenges Facing Women in Retirement

Women still earn less in the workplace than their male counterparts — 82 cents on the dollar for white women and even less for women of color. So, it may be no surprise that when it comes to retirement, many women are not on equal footing with men.

In fact, about half of women ages 55 to 66 have no retirement savings and those who do tend to be a bit behind their male counterparts. Consider that only 22 percent of women have at least $100,000 in retirement savings compared to 30 percent of men.

Additionally, women are more likely to take time off work to care for children or other family members. When they do re-enter the workforce, they are more likely to work at part-time jobs that may not offer retirement benefits. All these factors can widen the wage gap for when women can feasibly retire.

Women also live longer than men. The average life expectancy at age 65 for women is about 85 years old, compared to about 82 years old for men. A longer lifespan is a good thing, but it also presents more financial challenges. For example, women are more likely than men to need costly long-term care, which isn’t covered by Medicare.

How to Address the Unique Challenges Women Face

One of the best ways women can prepare for retirement is by saving as much as possible as soon as possible. If you have access to a 401(k) through an employer, contribute at least enough to receive your employer’s matching funds, and max out your contributions if you can. In 2022, you can save $20,500 a year in your 401(k) with an additional $6,500 in catch-up contributions if you’re age 50 or older. Additionally, you can set aside $6,000 in an IRA, or $7,000 for those ages 50 and up. 

A person turning 65 today has about a 70 percent chance of needing some type of long-term care support in their lifetime. Consider purchasing long-term care insurance to help shield yourself from certain health care costs as you age. Long-term care (also called custodial care) is not covered by Medicare and includes services like nursing home care or assistance with daily activities like bathing and dressing. Without long-term care insurance, these costs can drain your retirement savings. Consider that, on average, a private room nursing home costs about $9,034 a month.

The cost of long-term care insurance also increases as you age, so consider purchasing a plan before you retire when premiums are lower.  

Stepping away from a job to take of children or aging relatives can not only result in financial strain but can also be emotionally draining. In some rare cases, your employer may be able to offer support for a child or elder care, so be sure to ask what resources are available. Make sure you have a support system in place outside of work as well. You can find support groups through the Family Caregiver Alliance at Caregiver.org. 

Despite the ways gender equity has advanced, women are still at a disadvantage when it comes to saving for their future. Taking steps to shore up your retirement plan today can help prepare you for financial success and security in the long run.

 

Sources:

https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html

https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/financial-legal/info-2019/when-to-buy-long-term-care-insurance.html#:~:text=Long%2Dterm%20care%20insurance%20premiums,and%20fewer%20total%20dollars%20spent.

https://acl.gov/ltc/basic-needs/how-much-care-will-you-need#:~:text=Someone%20turning%20age%2065%20today,for%20longer%20than%205%20years

https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-participant-employee/retirement-topics-catch-up-contributions

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/2017/015.pdf

https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2022/01/women-more-likely-than-men-to-have-no-retirement-savings.html#:~:text=About%2050%25%20of%20women%20ages,partner%20fertility)%20and%20retirement%20savings.

https://blog.dol.gov/2021/03/19/5-facts-about-the-state-of-the-gender-pay-gap