By Glenn Ruffenach
When it comes to retirement planning, women need to “out-plan” men.
That’s the lesson at the heart of a new report from the MetLife Mature Market Institute and the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University. The study asserts that women – given the unique financial risks they face during their working years and in later life – should take “charge of their futures in a more forceful way that accounts for [such] risks.”
The problem: Few women, the report finds, are planning for retirement as aggressively as they should be – even though “they certainly have the capacity to do so.”
The study – “Women, Retirement and the Extra-Long Life: Implications for Planning” – begins by highlighting the distinctive challenges that women face in preparing for later life.
To start, women, on average, live 8% longer than men. As such, they are more likely than men to “age solo” (widowed, divorced or otherwise living alone); they have bigger medical bills (given their longer lives); they typically have inadequate health insurance; they are more likely to act as a caregiver during their working years (thus, reducing their wages, as well as future benefits like Social Security); and they are more likely to need long-term care themselves.
Women are also at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to income in later life. In 2009, the average retirement income from all sources for men age 65-plus was $37,509; the figure for women was just $21,519.
All that said, women typically fall short in planning for retirement. Only one in three women (34%) told MetLife and Scripps that they are primarily responsible for deciding how to handle their household finances, savings and investments, compared with six in 10 men. Only 44% of women have estimated what their expenses might be in later life (compared with 58% of men), and almost six in 10 women (58%) report spending fewer than 10 hours planning or gathering information over a six-month period, compared with 45% of men.
The numbers, the report concludes, send a clear message: “Women, in their own interests and for that of their family, need to do a better job to take charge, plan for contingencies, actively gather information, do the math, and get serious about planning.”
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