Retirement is a difficult financial challenge for most people, but it can be uniquely difficult for women. In fact, the National Institute on Retirement Security recently found that women age 65 or older are 80 percent more likely to live in poverty than men. Women age 75 to 79 are three times more likely.1
Why is retirement more difficult for women? There are a number of reasons, and many may vary based on each person’s unique situation. If you’re approaching retirement, now may be the time to identify the risks you could face. By planning ahead, you can implement a risk management strategy.
Below are three challenges that many women face in retirement, along with possible strategies to minimize risk. A financial professional can help you further develop your plan so you can enjoy a long and financially stable retirement.
According to a study from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), more than 25 million Americans left their 401(k) balance in a former employer’s plan during the 10-year period from 2004 through 2013.1 There’s nothing technically wrong with leaving your balance in the old plan, but it could create challenges as you plan for retirement.
If your old employer is ever sold or goes out of business, you may lose access to the plan. Even if the company changes 401(k) providers, you may find it difficult to navigate the new system and manage your funds.
Fortunately, you have options available. Below are three possible approaches. Consider your unique needs and goals before taking action. Also, you may want to consult with a financial professional to help you determine which option is best for you.
Struggling with student loan debt? You’re not alone. According to statistics from the Federal Reserve, Americans owe more than $1.4 trillion in student loan debt. That’s nearly double what they owe on credit cards. More than 40 percent of Americans have student loans, and 11 percent of them are in delinquent status on those obligations.1
If you’re struggling to pay off student loans, saving for retirement may not be at the top of your priority list. After all, you may have years or even decades until retirement. You might feel urgency to pay off your student loans before you begin saving for the future.
That approach could be a mistake, however. While retirement may be years in the future, it’s important to remember that you could spend decades being retired. That means you’ll need enough savings to fund 20 or even 30 years’ worth of living expenses.
According to a recent study from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, the median retirement savings for millennials is $31,000.1 While that may be a good start, it’s well short of what many millennials will need to fund a long and enjoyable retirement.
Millennials will face a number of challenges that previous generations didn’t face. The first is longevity. Life expectancy continues to increase. The medical industry is rapidly developing new treatments, services and technologies. It’s possible that millennials will live longer than any previous generation. If so, that means they’ll have to fund more years of retirement, which means they’ll need more savings.
There’s also the fact that millennials have to shoulder much of the burden for funding their retirement. Previous generations could rely on employer pensions, but that’s a benefit that has largely disappeared. Social Security benefits could also be reduced in the future if the program’s funding issues aren’t resolved. Personal savings could likely be the primary income source for many millennials in retirement.
If you’re approaching retirement, you likely have some big milestones ahead. One of the most important may be enrollment in Medicare. You’ve been paying into Medicare your entire career. Retirement is your opportunity to finally benefit from those contributions.
Medicare is a valuable service that extends medical insurance to retirees. It is generally available starting at your 65th birthday. Originally, Medicare simply provided coverage for hospitalizations. Over time, however, the program has become more robust and complex.
Today’s retirees face a wide range of choices and benefit options. Some come with added protection but also additional premiums. You may find it helpful to review your options and analyze your needs. By choosing the right protection package, you can minimize the impact health care has on your retirement assets.
Risk management is at the core of any sound financial plan. But it takes on heightened importance in retirement. Once you leave the working world, you don’t have the benefit of a regular paycheck. It could be difficult to bounce back from a market downturn or a costly emergency.
Health care costs can be an especially dangerous risk for retirees. Fidelity estimates that the average married couple will spend $275,000 on out-of-pocket health care expenses.1 That figure doesn’t even include long-term care, which can cost thousands of dollars per month and may be needed for several years.
Are you one of the fortunate few who will be able to rely on a pension in retirement? Pensions are quickly disappearing from employer benefit menus. In 1998, 58 percent of Fortune 500 companies offered pensions, also known as defined benefit plans. By 2015 that figure was down to 20 percent.1
The shift away from pensions is largely due to the growing popularity of the 401(k), which is known as a defined contribution plan. In a pension, the employer is responsible for funding the plan and providing a retirement benefit. In a 401(k) and similar plans, the employer may make some contributions, but the funding responsibility largely lies with the employee.
Tax time is here again. If you’re recently retired, you may be surprised to learn that taxes still play a big role in retirement. Many retirees assume that because they are no longer earning income, taxes won’t be a major expense.
The truth, though, is that taxes are often a significant expense for retirees. Many common sources of retirement income are taxable. Social Security is taxable, as are distributions from traditional IRAs, 401(k) plans and other qualified plans. Pension benefits usually are also taxable.
If you don’t plan ahead, you could find that taxes take a big bite out of your retirement budget. You may have less spendable income than you’d expected, and that could limit your ability to enjoy retirement.
When is the right time for you to file for Social Security benefits? It’s a question that nearly every retiree faces. According to the Social Security Administration, almost 90 percent of all workers age 65 and over rely on Social Security income.1 That means Social Security is likely to play a role in your income strategy, no matter your retirement plans.
Of course, not all Social Security benefits are equal. Your benefit amount depends on your career earnings and how long you worked. More important, though, it depends largely on when you file for benefits.
You are eligible to file as early as age 62. However, your full retirement age (FRA) likely falls between your 66th and 67th birthdays. If you file before your FRA, you could see your benefits permanently reduced as much as 25 percent.2
Retirement is a major financial challenge even for the most disciplined savers. While you will likely benefit from Social Security payments, you may not have any other form of guaranteed lifetime income. That means you may need to fund much of your retirement expenses with savings.
One of the biggest challenges retirees face is funding a retirement that could potentially span decades. People are living longer than ever. If you retire in your early 60s, it’s possible that your retirement could last 30 years. In fact, you may spend more time in retirement than you did saving for retirement.