Unprepared? MetLife Finds Mature Women Not Set for Retirement

Women must take charge, plan for contingencies and calculate their income and expenses, study says

Mature women, those aged 50 to 70, face unique risks in retirement, yet many have failed to plan adequately to secure their finances, according to a new study from MetLife Mature Market Institute.

The study, released Wednesday, found that women expect to live well into their 80s and are more concerned than men about affording health care and outliving their assets.

However, only about half of those surveyed knew the likely amount of their retirement income/assets, and just 44% had calculated the amount of their essential expenses. Sixteen percent said they had or planned to delay retirement four years on average.

Women who work collaboratively with partners and financial advisors have a better chance of securing their retirement finances than those who do not.

“The risks and costs of ‘living long and living female’ call for an ‘affirmative action’ plan,' ” Sandra Timmermann, director of the institute, said in a statement. “We find that those who plan for a steady stream of income, along with some flexibility for the unexpected, are best prepared for what can be an extended future.”

The study painted this picture of mature American women:

  • They can expect to live 8% longer than men on average.
  • As of 2009, those 65 and older had significantly lower annual retirement incomes than men, and were more likely to experience retirement alone.
  • They spend more on health care, but tend to have less adequate insurance.
  • They provide more long-term care to others, costing them in lost wages, Social Security benefits and pensions.
  • They are more likely to need long-term care themselves with a lifetime cost of $124,000, nearly three times that of men.

More than half of the women in the study reported that they were very or somewhat concerned about outliving their retirement resources. Of those who were at least somewhat confident about their ability to live comfortably in retirement, 66% ascribed this to having a guaranteed stream of income. Of those not confident, 61% said they lacked sufficient savings to last their anticipated lifetime.

The study recommended that women take responsibility for their retirement, the better to reduce the specific risks of being female; plan for contingencies; do their own math, using gender-specific estimates and calculations; and act now, planning with a variety of scenarios in mind.

Read Marital Status ‘Significant Factor’ in Women’s Retirement Confidence: IRI at AdvisorOne.com.

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