Everybody knows that women tend to outlive men, and on average by 6 to 8 years. They often act as caregivers to their ailing spouses or elderly parents. Despite this, too many women are not planning for their retirement nearly early enough.
Too often, retired women find themselves in situations where they do not have enough income to finish out their retirement years the way they started them. This can send them in search of part-time or even full-time work when they would rather be enjoying their retirement. If you are thinking ahead to retirement, or if you are a Baby Boomer who is nearing retirement age, it’s time to take a closer look at your income, your goals, and your retirement plans.
On average, women retire at just over 62 years of age. This is two years earlier than men, who on average retire around 64 or 65 years of age. While many people retire earlier or later, depending on their goals, this is the average.
Choosing to retire early can give you time to enjoy your hobbies, take a volunteer opportunity or spend time traveling while you still have the energy and health to do so. Choosing to retire later can give you more time to enjoy corporate perks, like healthcare, and save more money to use in your retirement. While both are valid reasons, you need to make sure your retirement plans match up with your retirement goals.
The way women spend their retirement varies as much as the women themselves. You may choose to spend your retirement enjoying your hobby, such as doing crafts or reading, or you may choose to get involved in the community as a volunteer. Many retired women want to travel and see parts of the world they haven’t seen before. A recent report from Forbes found that socializing or caregiving are important tasks women take on during retirement, as well.
All of these are great options for your retirement time, but many women find that the drop in income during retirement keeps them from enjoying these activities. Income received from Social Security benefits is barely enough to live on for the rest of your life, let alone to pursue outside activities, leaving women who didn’t do much retirement planning before retirement struggling.
It should not come as a surprise that men and women typically spend money differently. Women, for some reason, tend to invest less. A recent study reported that over 70% of the money women have sits in cash. That is a shocking number. Cash not only doesn’t earn much of a return, it actually declines in value over time due to inflation. The stock market, on the other hand, has averaged over 9% per year over the past 90 years, including the Great Recession of 2007-2008.
Both men and women tend to put off things that are not urgent or that they don’t feel confident with… and learning the skill of money management takes time. For women with a husband or companion who does the planning and makes the investment decisions, it makes sense to accept the division of labor. However, in this scenario, we too often find that these women become totally removed from those decisions, and by the time those financial decisions do fall to them as the surviving spouse, they don’t even know where to begin, leaving them feeling helpless and scared.
There is another little secret that a lot of men would rather not admit: they’re often not the experts on investing and planning that they think they are. The men who lost half the value of their 401k retirement plans when the market crashed in the Great Recession may not be the ones from whom women should take investment guidance.
Our advice for women (and men who love their wives) is to find a knowledgeable financial advisor, preferably a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) who specializes in retirement planning and is an independent fee-only RIA (Registered Investment Advisor).
They will provide guidance, help you create a plan, manage your investments in accordance with your goals, and be there to help you plan for retirement at any age.
Saving for a reasonable retirement income does not happen overnight. You are going to have to budget a reasonable amount of money from every paycheck to ensure you have the financial security you want and need during retirement. Here are some tips to make it happen.
The best and fastest way to save for retirement is to start as early as possible. Many women think that they are too late to start planning, so they give up. We always say that the best time to start is today. But to really get a jump on an early retirement, start saving from the moment you get your first job.
Compound interest makes your retirement savings grow faster. It happens when you earn interest or growth on both the money you initially save and the interest or growth that it earns. For example, if you invest $10,000 (your principal) and it grows by 10 percent over the next year (either from interest or earnings). After the end of the year, you would have $11,000 – your original principal plus 10 percent or $1,000. If you earn 10 percent the second year, you will have $12,100. This is because the 10 percent growth the second year is off of the $11,000 starting balance, which equates to $1,100. So every year when you get a return on your money, that return is added into the principal balance, and it also starts generating a return. With compounding interest, your savings grow substantially faster over time.
If your employer offers a 401(k) or similar retirement benefits program, take advantage of it. These plans typically offer an employer match, which is essentially free money just for participating and allows you to save even more money for your retirement.
Women, especially married women, often find themselves in the position of caretaker. Older women may take care of their working spouse or an elderly parent, and younger women often have kids at home. If you are not sure whether you have enough money set aside for your next avenue of life, we have identified some ways to cut costs now so you can redirect that money towards your retirement savings.
Save money on groceries by clipping coupons and shopping for generic brands when possible. Join a wholesale club and buy your main staple foods in bulk. Learn to shop sales and stock up when items you need are at their lowest price.
If you need childcare while your kids are small, shop around to find the best rate. Or, if you know other parents who work alternately to your schedule, consider trading childcare with them rather than paying for daycare. Look for cooperatives that can help lessen the cost, or consider dependent care flexible spending accounts.
No one says you have to wait for retirement to travel, but look for ways to save when you do travel. For example, use apps like GasBuddy to save on gas costs, and use fuel rewards. Improve your car’s gas mileage by driving in an eco-friendlier way to further reduce your fuel costs (many owner’s manuals or a quick internet search will provide the highest MPG rating for your vehicle). Consider using a travel rewards credit card and paying it off each month to earn points for airline travel.
When it comes to beauty products, you’re probably well aware that the cost is high. Ways to save on beauty products include finding products that do double-duty, such as using hair conditioner as your shaving cream. You can also avoid excessive costs by choosing the generic version of some of your favorite products. Finally, consider home remedies for minor healthcare and beauty routines that can cost quite a bit less than expensive prescription creams or name-brand products.
Your utility bills can be a huge drain on your income. There are many ways to save on your utility bills if you know where to look. First, make sure you are using energy-efficient light bulbs. Energy.gov recommends CFL or LED bulbs. Then, change your furnace filter regularly and keep air vents open and clear. Use a programmable or smart thermostat. You can also save by unplugging electronics when you call it quits for the night, rather than just turning them off. If you leave devices plugged in, even if they are not on or in use, they will use some electricity.
Look around your home to see if there are updates or repairs that you can make to your fixtures and appliances to make them less wasteful. For example, make sure they are working properly, without leaks or drips, or install eco-friendly options, like low-flow toilets or showerheads. Then, shorten your shower or opt for the dishwasher rather than hand-washing dishes to save even more on your water bill.
If you have subscriptions, like streaming services or magazines, consider eliminating some of them, especially those you don’t use much.
While it would be easy to say avoid eating out, the reality is that most everyone does eat out from time to time. So how can you save on this cost?
It is common for us to see seemingly small costs nickel and dime clients into way bigger dining expenses than they realize. Take a trip to the coffee shop, for example. People typically tell themselves that it’s only $3-$6 per trip, but add up a trip (or two) a day five (or seven) days a week, and suddenly that becomes a big cost over the course of a month. Try making your own coffee most days, and limit yourself to fewer trips to the coffee shop. Same thing with fast food and convenience items. Make a bag lunch or take in leftovers instead of dining out for lunch regularly. And if you run to the convenience store for snack items often, consider stocking up on a big box at the wholesale or grocery store, where the cost per item is certainly lower, and leave some of the items in your car or purse for when you need a snack.
When dining out at a restaurant, especially one with large portions, eat half there and take the other half of it home. When you get two meals out of the cost of one, you stretch your money. Use coupons and discounts whenever possible, and consider going out for lunch instead of dinner, as lunch prices are typically lower. Or try skipping the appetizer and drinks and instead opting for a filling meal and water.
If you are nearing retirement age, do not be afraid to ask about senior discounts. There may be additional savings available for older people if you simply ask.
Spending less money on these things is great, but that is just the first step. Once you start spending less, apply the money you’ve saved toward your retirement, rather than just putting it in your daily budget and finding other things to spend it on.
Remember, these are just starting points. Talk to an expert in personal finance or financial planning to help you find additional ways to save, and funnel that money towards your retirement.
Women and men tend to have different savings strategies for their retirement. Working with a professional who understands retirement strategies is key. We have many decades of experience that we can put to work for you and your financial goals.
Korving & Company, LLC, offers a wide range of services to help you with your retirement planning. Our financial planning and asset management services will ensure you have the right strategies in place to help you meet your retirement goals. We are not only knowledgeable about finances, but we are also compassionate to the needs of women who want to retire safely and securely.
Arie J. Korving, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, has been delivering customized wealth management solutions to his clients for more than three decades. Prior to co-founding Korving & Company, he was First Vice President with UBS Wealth Management and held management positions with General Electric.