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Money & Career

If You're a Woman Worried About Outliving Your Retirement Savings, This Advice is for You

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Running out of money in retirement is a frightening thought, and the reality may apply to women more than men.

According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, women 65 and older are 80 percent more likely to be impoverished than men, and widows are twice as likely to live in poverty than widowers.1

“Just think of it this way,” says Beth Andrews, CPA, Certified Financial Planner® and founder of Networth Advisors financial planning firm. “Most men die married. Most women die single. Generally, that may mean that men will have someone who’s caring for them right up to the end. Women may be left to care for themselves.”

We asked Andrews to share a few tips to consider to help women plan ahead for retirement. Here’s what she said:

Delay Social Security. “You can claim your Social Security benefits as early as age 62, but if that’s your plan you might want to reconsider,” Andrews says. “Taking Social Security early means you permanently will receive a lower monthly payment.” If you’re able to put it off a bit, until your full retirement age (66 or 67 depending on when you were born), Andrews says the monthly payments will grow.

Plan for inflation. “Too many people – women and men – think in terms of today’s dollars when they are trying to plot out how much money they will need in retirement. As decades pass and the cost of living rises, those dollars are going to buy a lot less, so it’s essential that you factor inflation into your retirement planning,” says Andrews.

Take care of your health. “There is a very strong connection between people’s wealth and their health,” says Andrews. “This is especially important for women because, statistically speaking, we live longer. Having health issues in retirement can definitely cause financial stress. Women spend their lifetime building their wealth and then they spend their wealth trying to get their health back.” She says that regular exercise and a healthy diet are important at all ages.

Take an active role in your finances. If you're not the person who handles finances in your household, be sure and learn about how to do so, so that you're prepared.  “If a woman is actively involved in their finances and a traumatic event occurs like a death in the family, they at least have some idea of what they have and how it should be distributed. When a person finds herself in a situation where she has to make very large financial decisions in a short period of time without any preparation it can be very traumatic. These people are blindsided!” she says, adding that it can lead to emotional decisions and mistakes. If this is the case, and you’re not prepared to handle your own finances, Andrews says it may be helpful to have the guidance of a trusted financial professional.

Create a plan, but be flexible. Andrews says the starting point of a good retirement income plan is to get a handle on how much money you need and want to spend each month. “In an ideal world, people would leave their job on the exact date they have enough money to retire. The reality is that life happens. You may have unexpected expenses because a child comes back to live at home, or you need some form of health care,” she says. It’s important to have a contingency plans and build in extra cash, whether it’s for emergencies or opportunities (a financial advisor can be helpful here).  

Work with a professional and get involved in the financial planning process. “You don't need to be in every meeting with the financial advisor, but learn how to use the financial tools at your disposal,” says Andrews. “My father has lots and lots of tools in his garage. When I got my driver’s license, he forced me to learn how to change a tire. I learned that the carjack is good for holding up the car and that other tools can be dangerous for this purpose if used improperly. My father taught me how to use the right tool for the job and you should learn this from your financial advisor or spouse as well.” 

When it comes to retirement planning, what advice has been helpful to you? We’d love to hear about it!


  1. National Institute on Retirement Security. Women 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished in retirement.

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