Statistically speaking, women live longer than men — which means the average American woman should plan on (and save for) a longer retirement than her male counterpart.
But what does saving more for retirement look like for most American women? And what steps do you need to take now so you’re ready for your retirement?
From getting educated to growing your wealth, the 15 steps we list below can empower you to take control of your retirement and start planning now for a comfortable post-work life.
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Prioritize your own financial education
Financial literacy — or having the know-how and skillset to make solid financial choices — is essential to successful retirement planning. However, according to data from Stanford’s Women’s Financial Security Project, women are much less confident in their financial literacy than men.
If you fall into that category, take steps now to become financially literate so you can craft a successful retirement. Listen to financial podcasts, download a free money management app, or check out a book on budgeting at your local library to get started.
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Save early and often
The earlier you start saving for retirement, the more money you’ll have to retire with. That’s true not just because you’ll be putting away more money for longer, but also because of compound interest.
This is the interest you earn on the interest generated by your principal investment, and it can grow your retirement savings fund substantially.
The earlier you start earning interest, the more compound interest you’ll earn over time and the less money you’ll need to set aside to meet your retirement goals.
Start a spousal IRA
If you’re a stay-at-home spouse with a working partner, it’s smart to open an IRA in your own name that your working spouse can contribute to.
You can continue to save for your family’s future through a work-sponsored 401(k). Meanwhile, your ability to save as a couple will go up and you’ll also gain more financial control over your own future.
Find sources of passive income
Since American women tend to live longer, they generally need more money to last them through retirement.
Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or working partner, consider finding sources of passive income that pad your growing nest egg.
Depositing funds in a high-yield savings account, investing in property, and learning about stock market investments are all excellent first steps to building your passive earning abilities.
Consider a side gig or two
If you really want to ramp up your ability to save, consider tapping into a new source of income too. Selling crafts or clothes online, for instance, doesn’t require much time (or effort, depending on what you sell).
Other popular gig-economy jobs like driving for a ride-share service or freelance editing on the side are pretty easy to slip into your schedule and give you more cash to fall back on.
Strategize re-entering the workforce
If you’re currently a stay-at-home parent but don’t think this will be your role forever, it’s worth thinking about how you’ll re-enter the wider workforce.
Regardless of how long you plan to remain at home, maintaining any current work connections and staying up on your field’s technical skills ensures you can rejoin the workforce if your spouse loses their job or once your kids leave home.
Double-check that you’re a spousal beneficiary
It might seem safe to assume that your partner has you down as the primary beneficiary on their retirement accounts, but it’s important to check just in case.
You don’t want a paperwork error or a silly oversight to keep you from inheriting retirement funds that you and your partner were intending to use jointly.
Understand how divorce impacts finances
Statistically speaking, women walk away from divorce in a much more precarious financial state than divorced men.
Although you’re probably not planning on divorce, it’s important to think about what splitting your assets could do to your retirement plans and to budget accordingly.
Most importantly, if you end up in divorce court, prioritize finding a lawyer who will help you negotiate an equitable financial settlement, including a fair division of retirement savings.
Know what your work is worth
Women earn, on average, just 82% of what men do, according to the Pew Research Center. Many aspects of that gender pay gap fall outside your individual control like long-lasting change can only really occur on an institutional level.
However, you can improve your odds of earning 100% of what you’re worth (instead of 82%) by knowing the current market rate for workers with your education level, skill set, and years of experience.
Armed with that information, you’ll be better prepared to push back on a low-ball job offer and negotiate a fairer salary.
Make catch-up contributions after age 50
Did you start saving for retirement a little late in life? Once you reach age 50, the IRS lets you make catch-up contributions to your 401(k) retirement savings account.
Maximizing how much you contribute will help you later as you start to live on a fixed income. Most people can benefit from catch-up contributions.
Get familiar with the so-called pink tax
“The pink tax” refers to the fact that products marketed toward women tend to cost more than the same product marketed toward men.
The next time you’re shopping for a product that has both a male and female version, like a ski jacket or wallet, consider buying the men’s version — it’ll stop you from throwing away money on essentially the same product with different packaging.
Figure out what level of investment risk you’re comfortable with
Female investors take 82% of the risk that male investors do. The more conservative investment strategy may contribute to the fact that women tend to have less savings for retirement than men.
But at the same time, conservative investing could also explain why female-led investment accounts tend to generate a higher return than male-led accounts.
Wondering if your investments have the right level of risk to maximize your potential payout? Talk to an accountant, financial advisor, or portfolio manager.
Make financial equity non-negotiable
While the number of women who say they participate in household financial decisions is growing, American women currently control just a third of the country’s total household finances.
That number is likely to grow exponentially over the next decade, but as the financial power balance evens out, make sure you’re talking to your partner about sharing equally in your household’s financial control.
Address health concerns early
Women may live longer than men, but they also tend to have worse health and more disability as they age. Taking care of yourself now can help you stay healthy longer, which also means you’ll spend less on healthcare as you age.
Along with eating well and exercising often, seek medical treatment for health issues that seem small now instead of putting them off. Early intervention is a crucial step in setting yourself up for a healthy future.
Put yourself first
Working women and girls across the globe invest 90% of their earnings back into their families. Men, in contrast, invest just 35% of their earned money into their families — which means they have more money to plan a comfortable retirement.
If you have a partner, make sure you’re both contributing equally to your family finances. If you’re raising kids on your own, take advantage of any local financial resources available to single parents.
Either way, developing your own financial literacy can help you budget for your family and yourself so you can meet basic needs now while saving for your future.
General retirement tips are all well and good, but women in America face unique challenges and stressors that can throw their retirement plans off track, which is why women-specific tips come in handy.
Get a head start on building the retirement of your dreams by implementing these steps ASAP.
Remember, whether you're retiring early or on time, having the savings you need to not just survive but thrive in your golden years is absolutely achievable.
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