Ladies, prepare yourselves for some scary statistics.
The average woman works fewer years than the average man (by about 12 years), makes $300,000 less than the average man in a lifetime and lives six years longer than the average man.
That combination means women have to plan for a longer retirement with less money. To complicate matters, many women who are approaching retirement are prone to give money away, especially to needy adult children, at a time when they should be saving the most.
"Women are often focused on being loving family members, caregivers and friends without thinking about themselves and their future," says Anna Rappaport, a Chicago-based retirement consultant and a former president of the Society of Actuaries. "It's easy to forget that we need to provide for our futures, and particularly for retirement and our old age.”
In case you aren't convinced, here are some more frightening stats, courtesy of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER), in Washington, D.C.:
- Three out of four working women earn less than $40,000 per year.
- Half of all women work in jobs without pensions.
- Women's earnings average $.77 for every $1 earned by men.
Don't Let Family Derail Your Finances
Spending money you don’t have on the grandkids and adult children is one of the top money mistakes for women to avoid, according to WISER, and Rappaport agrees. “You can decimate your own retirement this way,” Rappaport says.
So what can you do to make sure you don’t get caught short?
1. Learn how to say "No." “If you happen to be part of a large family you’ll want to make sure you don’t end up with an unfair share of the responsibilities,” says Rappaport. Try setting limits and delegate some of the family work to siblings. Saying "no" can be “gut wrenching,” she says, but it’s important nonetheless.
2. Keep your job. If you’re thinking about giving up your job or taking on a part-time work instead, you might be better off in the long run continuing in that full-time job, using family leave if available, and then taking a leave of absence or reducing your hours temporarily. That should help to preserve your retirement benefits.
Gaps in employment will impair your ability to build retirement assets and income, and vest in a traditional or “defined benefit” pension plan if you are lucky enough to have one of those, while interfering with your ability to contribute to a 401(k) as well.