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Inheritance & retirement: What do you mean “because I’m a woman?”

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Disclaimer: This is a heavily opinionated piece in reaction to two articles that were published recently here on “Less than one-third of women say life is better after retiring” and “MassMutual: Women are closing retirement savings gap with men.”

With more than 40 million American baby boomers turning 65 and retiring in waves, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and with life expectancy increasing because of technology and medical advancements, about 20 percent of the U.S. population will be in its “Golden Years” in no time. Add to that mix the fact that Social Security might be going broke in the next 10 or 20 years (or who knows), and we’re left with a population who will have to decide to go back to work or go on with few means of sustaining themselves.

Sure, there are other products out there to insure that these folks have an income to cover their living expenses, but what if those products are biased in some way? And by that I mean the gaps that still remain between men and women in their Social Security payments, their retirement accounts and the expectation that women will inherit from their husbands.

Let’s take into consideration these few “tip of the iceberg” points:

  • Women can see a reduction of their Social Security funds because of leaving the workforce to raise children or care for a parent, a survey by Harris Poll found.
  • Some women believe that by taking Social Security payments early, they will have more money in the long run, the same survey found.
  • Only 33 percent of women work with a financial advisor, according to this survey.
  • Women still don’t earn the same as men (wage gap).
  • 70 percent of inheritance will go to women, according to Rebecca True, a financial advisor who specializes in working with women.
  • 44 percent are the “head of household” or “bring home the bacon.”

With Social Security representing up to 40 percent of the total income Americans receive throughout their golden years, it seems that women have been given the “short end of the stick” when it comes to retirement. Following the points above, when you add up that women are penalized for having children (there, I said it), that they still don’t earn as much as men and that an increasing percentage are becoming the main breadwinners of the family, we are faced with some very difficult questions.

Another recent study by Allianz found that single-parent families prioritize saving for college or their kids’ education over retirement; that’s 68 percent of single-parent families who are led by women, and most of them don’t receive child support.

So, how are we supposed to advise women on how to manage their retirement funds when the system that it is based on is totally biased? There has to be a solution that doesn’t penalize women if we decide to take a year off to enjoy our babies. And ok, we’ve made strides in gender equality and pay in recent years, and even though we’re still not there yet, we’re getting there. But, in the meantime, this means that a man who is at my same job level will still earn more and, therefore, have more money for retirement.

Even more so, women are expected to inherit money, either from their family or husbands, and sometimes this is added to their retirement plans, but I can’t help wonder: What about those single moms out there? Who are they going to inherit from? What if they make more than their parents ever made and only inherit their parent’s debt? Where’s the “inheritance” safety net?

These are just a few examples of the questions that really bother me. And are we really moving towards equal pay, having a plan in place when or if women decide to have children and leave the workforce and/or talking honestly about inheritance and single-parent families?

Just food for thought…

See also:

The 5 top questions facing middle-wealth boomer retirees

5 things to know about your female clients

How to market to the ever-growing female clientele


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