As millions of Americans gear up for their retirement, research suggests that women face a harder battle when it comes to living comfortably after the age of 65, and the numbers are alarming. In fact, according to The National Institute on Retirement Security, American women are 80% more likely than men to be impoverished by the time they reach 65 or older. These statistics aren’t that shocking when placed in the context of many obstacles women face in the workforce, such as the wage gap and limited working years.
On average, women make only 80% of the salaries their male counterparts earn for the same work, decreasing the amount of money they have for savings and retirement contributions. Even women who work full-time for the same amount of years as a man, will find their 401Ks lacking when it’s time to leave the office. Women are also more likely to hold part-time positions: 25% compared to 12% of male workers.
In addition to wage differences, disparities in lifestyle pose a challenge to financial security in retirement. Women are more likely to stay at home taking care of their families, and they often adopt the role of caretaker for their elderly relatives, effectively removing themselves from the job force. Women also fare worse after a divorce, becoming financially unstable after the toll of legal fees and the loss of real estate and other possessions.
For those who do have retirement or savings plans, it’s often not enough to care for them, considering that women live longer than men on average, and because of this will likely incur more medical expenses that can quickly drain retirement funds. This doesn’t account for women who are single/divorced/widowed and Black and Hispanic women who often face higher poverty rates.
Given these harsh realities, what can women do to secure a more financially stable future for themselves when retirement comes calling? Let’s take a look at some of the steps you can take to have more control over your personal finances in the years ahead, whether retirement is a month or a decade away.
Evaluate Your Current 401K Plan
If you’re fortunate enough to have employment with a company that grants you a 401K plan, make sure you have good understanding of what percentage of your check goes toward that plan. The median retirement for women in the US is $34,000. That’s not a lot when you consider personal expenses, and relying on social security and your pension alone is not a smart plan.Consider putting more money away into your 401k. While things might seem tighter now, it will benefit you in the long run.
Consider your options for stowing away your paycheck and increase the amount of funds you delegate to this account.
Take Control of Your Savings
In general, women save less than men, typically for reasons stated above: less wages, shorter years spent working, more part-time labor, and the less women in high-earning positions such as management and executive roles. Women are also more conservative investors. Experts suggest that making a conscious effort to save can help eliminate these struggles.
Women are gaining ground when it comes to financial literacy, and that’s a good thing. Create a savings goal for the year, open a retirement account and start banking a portion of your earnings each pay period. Consulting with a financial advisor can also help your leverage your income and create a savings method that fits your current situation.
Leverage Your Benefits
One of the helpful things many retirees don’t realize is that waiting to collect your social security can earn you more dollars in the long run. Waiting a few years to cash in on your social security benefits will boost the amount you’ll receive, turning a monthly check of $1,250 to $1,680. That’s a big difference. Be mindful that this accumulation stops at 70, at which point there’s no use in waiting any longer.
Also remember that marriage can be helpful. If you spouse was to pass away, you could be entitled to their benefits including retirements, social security, life insurance and military benefits. Check with your benefit providers to find out what you’re eligible to receive.
Keep Earning Income
Living longer means you also have a longer opportunity to earn income and make up for any lost time. If you’re feeling well, retiring later rather than earlier may be an attractive option to continue doing what you love. If you do decide to leave the office, don’t count out part-time work, which many retirees enjoy in their field, whether it’s consulting, helping in education or healthcare or a another related industry. There are many opportunities in the government as well for older Americans looking to earn money without the daily stress and hustle and bustle of corporate America.
If you are crafty, monetizing a hobby is an excellent way to make your own money in retirement. Local arts and crafts festivals are fantastic ways to make money locally or while traveling. Some couples travel to several states, visiting relatives or staying in a camper while other stay closer to home and sell in their local art guilds or online at sites such as Etsy. Even teaching on a personal level in activities such as yoga, music and more can be an enjoyable way to earn income on your own time and with something you love.
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