The fight for female equality has been underway for more than a century. Since then, voting, birth control and other rights have been achieved. But not every woman is aware that there’s still a huge discrepancy in how financially prepared men and women are when it comes to retirement.
A slew of personal factors mean that not only do women need to care more than they currently do about retirement, but that they need to care more than men. Read below to see why and what women can do to bridge the gap.
Why Women Need to Care About Financial Planning
Female longevity is one prime reason that women need to be more involved in planning for their financial future. Not only do women still live longer than men, but they’re also much more likely to live into their 100s. Those elderly years are a prime time of medical bills, which can pile up quickly.
Women also take more time off work to raise children. Childbearing years are when women are in their prime career phase, so they sacrifice more time and income to take care of their kids. Women can lose up to 10% in wages for each child they have, according to a study published in the American Sociological Review.
Women also earn less than men throughout their careers. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, female workers only earn 80 cents for each dollar that men earn.
Poverty also affects women more in retirement, up to 80% more than men. This crisis highlights the reality that women need to pay greater attention to their retirement savings.
How Women Can Take an Active Role
- Contribute to an employer-sponsored plan. Many employers offer retirement plans within their company, some of which have matching programs to incentivize employees. Check to see if your company has a program and what it takes to earn the match. Women should also check their vesting schedule to see when they’ll be eligible to claim their matched funds.
- Start an IRA. Women who don’t have access to a 401k or similar program can still start a retirement-only account, such as an IRA. The IRS limits IRA contributions to $5,500 per year, so women trying to save for retirement might need to find an additional savings vehicle.
- Find a financial planner. A woman who’s not comfortable researching her own retirement options can seek refuge in a financial planner. A fee-only financial planner will listen to her needs, determine what she needs to save for retirement and construct a plan specific to her life. You can find a Certified Financial Planner in your local area here.
- Wait to claim social security. Social security benefits are available starting at age 67, but those who wait until age 70 will earn an extra 8% per year. That difference can be vital for women who failed to save enough for retirement.
- Make catch-up contributions. Women 50 and older can contribute extra to their retirement accounts. For example, women can add an extra $1,000 to their IRA and an extra $6,000 to their 401k. Doing this consistently can help women catch up to where they need to be to have a successful retirement.
- Save early. The earlier women can save for retirement, the better. It’s easier to build wealth by contributing a little at a time over several decades than it is to try to dump large amounts of money later on. Even if it’s only $25 a month, it’s better than nothing.
- Put raises and bonuses toward retirement. Every time you receive a raise or promotion, add that money automatically into your retirement. You won’t miss what you never have.
Now, more than ever, it’s critical that women learn how to and begin to save, invest, and plan for their futures. At almost any stage of adult life, there are things you can do to ensure your financial security.