SmartMoney Blogs

A blog about living in and planning for retirement

Women Live Longer, But Aren’t Planning Longer

Women may have more at stake than men when it comes to retirement planning, a study found

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.”

Test your own assumptions with the SmartMoney Retirement Planner.


We welcome thoughtful comments from readers. Please comply with our guidelines. Our blogs do not require the use of your real name.

Comments (0)

    • Be the first to leave a comment on this blog.

About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.