Men and women are not equal when it comes to retirement risk. Women face a higher chance of outliving their assets and experiencing poverty in old age because they have longer life expectancy, exhibit lower risk tolerance and make less income than men.
On average, a woman’s life expectancy is three years longer than a man’s, and 30 percent of women now age 65 can expect to reach age 90. That means women need to save more to fund a longer retirement.
Women are more likely to spend some of their retirement years on their own as they outlive their spouses or because of divorce. This makes retirement more expensive. Almost 40 percent of older women living alone depend on Social Security for almost all their income. If their Social Security benefits were taken away, more than 50 percent of older women living alone would be living in poverty.
Some of the challenges that women face in retirement can be traced back to their working years. Women have less income than men, earning an average of 77 cents for every $1 earned by men. This translates to a loss of more than $300,000 over a lifetime.
Women also spend fewer years working than men. In a 15-year time frame, women spend twice as much time as men outside the work force because they interrupt their careers, says management expert Marcus Buckingham. This leads to lower employer-based retirement plan benefits.
In fact, 50 percent of women workers hold relatively low paying jobs without pensions. Those who do have pension benefits receive just 50 percent of the average pension benefits received by their male counterparts, the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement reported.
Because the odds are stacked against women, WISER recommends the following strategy to help address gender-based retirement risk:
Consider a guaranteed source of retirement income that cannot be outlived, such as lifetime annuities.
Delay claiming Social Security benefits to increase the level of both spousal and widow’s benefits.
Purchase long-term care insurance.
Plan for an income stream that will continue in the event of a spouse’s death, through life insurance and joint and survivor annuities.