Why Women Should Think Differently About Retirement

Longer life spans, lower income, and greater healthcare costs are all factors women must plan for.

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"For themselves and their families, women can do a better job of taking charge, planning for contingencies, gathering information, calculating their income/expenses, and getting serious about retirement strategy," says Kathryn McGrew, research fellow at the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University. "Their spouses and partners can do their part by engaging in a joint strategy that serves the interests of both parties with various retirement scenarios. They should give particular consideration to the fact that most women will outlive their spouses."

Some steps to consider:

• Take charge. Women should be aware of gender-longevity differences and their implications and seek not generic, but gender-specific, information and advice. Couples should work together on information gathering and calculations but should break out those calculations for each gender.

• Plan for contingencies. Have a Plan B, including accounting for expenses like long-term care and the health costs related to a woman's longer life. Consider the implications of "cashing out" resources prematurely, like retirement plan benefits, guaranteed income joint-and-survivor options, and Social Security benefits.

• Act now. The most affirmative action is timely action. Act now, as if your (later) life depends on it.

Resources:

Financial Planning for Women: Retirement Calculator (AARP)

What Today's Woman Needs to Know and Do: The New Retirement Journey (MetLife Mature Market Institute)

What Every Woman Should Know (Social Security Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)