Planning for retirement is every bit as much a concern for American working women as it is for working men, and perhaps more so. After all, women make up fifty-seven percent of women participate in the labor force, and among women with children under age 18, that figure rises to 70 percent. At the same time, women face unique retirement saving and planning challenges, such as extended time away from work to bear and raise children or care for family members. Women also have longer lifespans.
In light of this, investing a little time along with your dollars can make a big difference in a woman’s retirement security. To help prepare for and manage the challenges, here is a place to start:
1) Take charge of your retirement: Find out as much as you can. Talk to your spouse, find out about current and past employers, and check on your Social Security benefit. Even if you are worried about the answers, it’s better to find out now than when you are ready to retire.
2) Take advantage of retirement benefits available at your workplace: Financial experts agree that there is no better place to grow money then at work because of the tax advantages. In addition, if your employer adds matching contributions, that’s free money. The sooner you start, the longer the money will have to grow. Those over age 50 can take advantage of “catch-up” provisions that help you save more in your 401(k) and IRA plans. If you are lucky enough to have a traditional, defined benefit plan, make sure you understand why it is a valuable benefit.
3) Take time to educate yourself: There is a wealth of information out there on the Internet, and your financial adviser is an even better resource. Furthermore, take advantage of free classes at local schools, read magazines and articles on investing for retirement. Investing a little time along with your dollars can make a big difference in your retirement security.
4) Take the first step to learn how much you will need to have a comfortable retirement: The big question is whether your guaranteed sources of income, like Social Security combined with retirement accounts and savings will be enough for a comfortable retirement. Look at what sources of retirement income you can count on and what you can expect to receive from them. Some of your expenses may go down, but others, especially health care costs, may go up significantly. Other factors include how long you will be retired, investment rates of return, and inflation. If what you have so far does not seem like enough, make a plan to save more.
5) Take the time to sound your own alarm. This is your wake-up call. Don’t put it off: Many women face challenges meeting retirement income needs, but educating yourself will help you choose savings and investment tools wisely. Starting to plan now will give you more options later. The promise of retirement is having time for yourself after a lifetime of hard work.