3 experts advise women on retirement planning

By Larissa Fernand |  09-03-20 | 
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Larissa Fernand is Website Editor for Morningstar.in. She would like to hear from you and welcomes your feedback.

This article is definitely sobering. But if you are a woman, and you have not begun to save for retirement, it should be a wake-up call. The aim is not to alarm you, but edge you into some action. Being pre-emptive can help stave off a shortfall when you are old.

CHRISTINE BENZ, Morningstar’s director of personal finance

One aspect of retirement preparedeness is a settled matter: Women are in worse shape than men on nearly every important metric.

The reasons are manifold, but a few factors loom large. Women have lower lifetime earnings than their male counterparts, due to both wage inequality and the fact that women are more likely to stop working or maintain a reduced schedule to devote time to caregiving for children, elderly parents, or both. Lower lifetime earnings translate into fewer opportunities to fund retirement accounts.

In addition, women must stretch those smaller average balances over a longer time frame in retirement, as 65-year-old women in the U.S. outlive their male counterparts by two years, on average. In India, life expectancy for women averages 70.4 years, for men it is 67.8 years (according to the Sample Registration Survey for 2013-17).

That convergence of lower retirement balances and a longer retirement period must be taken seriously be women. Once you combine the tendency that women invest more conservatively, then there is a higher likelihood of shortfall in retirement.

Research on women’s investing behaviours is all over the map: Studies have pointed to women investing more conservatively than men, trading lessbeing more patient, or being more goals-oriented. Other research indicates that once you control for income, women’s investing behaviours are very similar to men’s.

A few findings are consistent, though. One is that women tend to be more reticent than men to get their money invested. As Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and co-founder of the Ellevest investing service for women, put it, “Our rival is really cash. You know, that's our biggest competition. It's cash and inertia.”

For women hurtling toward retirement shortfalls, delaying retirement will be the single-most financially impactful decision they can make. But working longer is “a worthy aspiration, not a retirement plan.” And research from Morningstar Investment Management head of retirement research David Blanchett indicates that retirees who expect to work longer--past the traditional retirement age of 65, for example--are often unable to do so. Our retirement dates are less in our control than we might like to believe.

So whatever be your age, start saving for retirement NOW.

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NANCY COUTU of Money Managers Financial

In the U.S., women make $0.77 on the $1 that the man makes. In India according to last year’s Monster Salary Index, men make Rs 46.19 more in comparison to women. This naturally means less benefits. So, right out of the box, she is making less money.

Her career may not take a consistent growth path. She may take a break to have and raise children, or may give up a full time career altogether. There is also the possibility of taking a break to care for ailing parents.

Compound that with the fact that she is going to live longer. And because they were caregivers, it could have also affected their health. Their chance of becoming debilitated is far greater.

So what must be done?

It is evident that a combination of factors is at play. But it all points in one direction: A woman will have to save much more.

Ensure that the medical insurance coverage is sufficient.

If a woman is going to live maybe a long time not with quality of life, but she still needs shelter and food, she needs someone to take care of her and she should have a strategy in place for that.

Split expenses between required and desired.

First, how much is needed to meet the required expenses--mortgage, taxes, insurance premiums, food.

Second, what does she want retirement to look like? What are the things she wants to do? Is it going to be an expensive lifestyle? Does she want to help her grandchildren with marriage and education expenses?

Go back to her resources: How much she is making right now versus her expenses? Is there a little extra there that she could be saving? The asset allocation will depend on how far away she is to retirement. Women tend to be more conservative investors than men, or are lopsided. They either have it all at risk or none at risk. You need a balance.

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MARK MILLER of Retirement Revised

Married women are generally better off than single women--they have more financial assets, since their households often benefit from having two incomes.

But a key issue in retirement security is the amount of preretirement income that you can replace--and that's where the problem lies. It boils down to maintain your standard of living in retirement. Married women tend to be less prepared, because of the need to replace two incomes.

In other words, married women face a greater risk of a sharp drop in their replacement rate during retirement because there is more preretirement income to replace.

It could happen that two-earner couples tend not to save enough for retirement in comparison with their single counterparts. People often don't understand this need to save for two.

Single status of a woman could also be the outcome of divorce. The financial stresses stem from the cost of divorce itself--legal feels, splitting up assets, and lost economy of scale from having a single household rather than two. Women also tend to remain the primary caregivers for the children of divorced households, making it more difficult for them to work and save.

Eventually, women tend to end their lives as “single” women simply because they outlive their spouses. So making that nest egg last is a big priority. And, it is also really important for the surviving spouse to be engaged with the finances. Stay plugged in. Understand the basics of your financial plan. And know where everything is.

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