Since 1971, the United States has celebrated Women’s Equality Day on August 26. Although the occasion originally commemorated the passage of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote, today it recognizes and encourages people and organizations to promote the full equality for women in society. We recognize equality spreads the gamut, going beyond voting rights and equal representation in the workforce (although these things are just as important); it also represents the right a woman has to take charge of her own financial future. Tremendous progress has been made in this area, but we still have a way to go.
For example, men and women have traditionally been on unequal financial footing when it comes to retirement security. Despite progress in pay equity, women, on average, continue to earn about 20% less than men, receive Social Security benefits that are about 23% smaller, and accumulate about one-third less in retirement savings. Combined, this lowers women’s average retirement income by 42% compared to men.
Additionally, even though ultimately eight out of 10 women will be solely responsible for their financial well-being at some point due to divorce, widowhood or never marrying, most women prefer to let their spouse handle long-term financial planning. But this can lead to financial surprises once women are on their own. Underscoring this point, 59% of divorced and widowed women say they wish they’d been more involved in long-term financial decisions during their marriage.
Finally, women tend to live longer than men, which leads to not only increased living expenses throughout retirement, but also higher healthcare expenditure. Combined, this requires more robust retirement planning to avoid outliving savings.
As a result, women face unique challenges when preparing for their lives after work, and thus require unique solutions.
Here is four practical steps that can help women take control of their financial future:
- Regular meetings with a financial advisor. A financial health checkup is just as important as a physical checkup for maintaining retirement security. A trusted financial advisor can help you examine financial habits, explore potential benefits and pitfalls, develop a set of goals and discover useful retirement planning tools and options.
- Lifetime income options. Given the stakes are higher for women than men, retirement products that provide lifetime income—such as fixed indexed annuities (FIAs)—can be beneficial to any robust financial plan.
- Retirement calculators. Retirement planning can quickly become overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. A good first step is to explore free online retirement calculators to help you visualize how much income you’ll need to sustain your desired lifestyle during retirement, as well as the potential tax implications of various retirement products.
- Continued financial education. Life is a never-ending learning process, and financial health is no different. Everyone—women and men—should make it a priority to stay abreast of the latest retirement strategies, or at the very least, work with a financial advisor to make sure your financial plan matches your retirement goals. Here is a great place to start.
This Women’s Equality Day, we encourage women to empower themselves and investigate what life can look like during retirement, because no matter your background or stage in life, investing in your financial future will always pay dividends.