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How to best communicate retirement planning to female clients

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Purely as a result of gender, women bear some financial burdens to a greater degree than men. Specifically, here are the burdens they face:

U.S. women currently are living 4.8 years longer than men from birth, according to the Social Security Administration. At age 65, a female has a 32.6 percent probability of living at least to age 90, compared to a 21.2 percent probability for a male of the same age.

This longevity advantage means that women bear the burden of having to plan for longer retirements. Most married women need to plan for the possibility of outliving a spouse and having to make financial decisions alone at some point.

Due to a combination of lower historic wages and time taken off from work to raise children, today’s retired women qualify for lower Social Security retirement benefits on average than men. In 2015, the average annual benefit received by women age 65 or older was $13,500, compared to $17,600 for men.

Several studies have indicated that women are more likely than men to become responsible for the financial, emotional and medical care of elderly parents or their own spouses. Women are more likely to be single, widowed or divorced and live alone at older ages. Elderly women who lack a care-giving companion have a greater probability of spending part of their old age in a nursing home.

Given these realities, it’s a good idea to tailor retirement planning education and communications for women’s special needs.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Offer to help employed women evaluate their retirement plans at work, and focus on maximizing the rate of savings (including employer contributions) in addition to the rate of investment earnings. 

2. Always ask women clients and prospects if they have self-employment or freelance income, and suggest the advantages of increasing contributions via SEP-IRAs, SIMPLEs, or personal IRAs.

3. Help women over the age of 50 take advantage of catch-up contributions available in employer-sponsored IRAs and personal IRAs. For 2015, the catch-up is $6,000 in a 401(k), $3,000 in a SIMPLE, and $1,000 in personal IRAs (Traditional or Roth).

4. Open discussions with women on topics such as their attitudes about whether they could make financial decisions alone (without a spouse), and how confident they feel about maintaining lifestyles over long retirements. Make sure to explain options for long-term care insurance (LTCI).

5. If possible, help women understand their Social Security benefits, and educate them on their employer plan investment and transfer/rollover options. In short, integrate all of their retirement income sources into a holistic plan for retirement income and longevity protection.

The National Women’s Law Center recently published an informative fact sheet on Women and Social Security, and you can find it at their website.

See also:

The women’s market: big, lucrative and rewarding — but underserved

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