We all hear a lot about the gender pay gap on the news. On average, women make 80% of what men do. That has a lot of consequences for women – particularly single women – over the course of their lifetimes. But a related issue that gets less attention and will affect almost as many women is the retirement gender gap.
What is the Retirement Gender Gap?
We’ve long known that women live longer than men. That means more years of spending money. A longer life is mostly a good thing, but it has the pesky consequence of costing more.
The retirement gender gap is the result of a few issues combined to create a larger one.
To start, the gender pay gap means women make a lot less over a lifetime of working than men do. That means they have less money to save each year and their savings don’t compound at nearly the rate of their male counterparts. As a result, women typically only have about 70% as much in their retirement accounts than men.
Less saved combined with several extra years of life means things are going to get tight in their older years for most women. And many women that are married to men will end up spending a portion of their shared savings on care for their spouse when he needs it – often a number of years before she finds herself needing the same level of care, but now with far less money available to spend on it.
It’s not a pretty picture, especially as the costs of health care and senior living facilities continue to rise.
What Can Women Do About It?
The only real thing you can do is be prepared. Expect to need to save more, spend less, and be cautious throughout your retirement years.
Take the retirement gap into account in your retirement calculations
If you haven’t retired yet, then as you work out how much money you need to save before you retire, you should add a few extra years to your calculations versus what experts recommend that men plan for.
Put off retirement for longer.
You may need to spend longer working to account for the difference, which certainly isn’t fair, but it is what it is. A few extra years of work will make a big difference in how comfortable you are in those extra years of life. And waiting to start your social security benefits pays off in higher payments once you do start getting those checks, so patience can really help you out here.
Look for opportunities to make money during retirement.
A lot of seniors are finding ways to bring some extra income in after their retirement. The sharing economy makes it possible to make money doing things like driving people around or watching their pets. Crafty seniors can sell items on Etsy or start an online shop. Some seniors are even getting jobs working as caregivers for other seniors.
You can find ways to bring in an income that don’t require the same commitment to full-time work that your former job did. You might even find that something that you genuinely like doing can make you money now.
Be cautious in creating your monthly retirement budget.
Making money is half of the equation, spending it is the other. If you had dreams of traveling the world during retirement, you might need to temper those or prioritize cheaper lodgings as you go. Set a realistic monthly budget that allows for more years of comfortable living, so you’ll be safe even if you live beyond the age you expect to.
That doesn’t mean not to allow any room for fun in the budget, just to be careful how much spending you allow yourself.
Hopefully when your daughters and granddaughters reach their senior years, we’ll have made progress on some of the gender inequality seniors face now. In the meantime though, you have to think of yourself and plan for the circumstances you’re faced with. Be cautious in your saving and spending so you can aim for a comfortable lifestyle through the rest of your life.