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Married Women Need Their Own Financial Plan: Study

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Financial advisors have long known that the financial needs of women are different from those of men because women live longer and usually earn less money, but if the women are married, advisors usually develop one financial plan for the couple, known as the household.

(Related: 10 alarming facts about women and retirement risks)

Now a new study from the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) at Boston College makes the case that married women deserve their own financial plan whereby their finances are analyzed separately, apart from their male spouse, because they’re more likely than ever to not stay married. (The study did not consider same-sex marriages.)

(Related: Forward-thinking advisors focus on women)

Today women spend fewer years married than earlier generations did because they get married later or not at all and they get divorced more frequently, according to the study.

(Related: Divorce is destroying retirement)

The CRR report uses data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a national representative survey of people over age 50, and focuses on the portion of their lives that women over 20 spent being married. It compares those percentages among several cohorts: the oldest, born between 1931 and 1941; war babies (1942-1947); early boomers (1948-1953); and mid boomers (1954-1959).

After making several adjustments to the data, dated 2014, the CRR study found that mid-boomer women, age 54 to 60, will have spent slightly more than half their lives married, compared with 73% for the oldest cohort, age 73 to 83. Those percentages remained the same when comparing the two groups, with some college education and with a high school degree or less.

Close to half the boomer women divorced, compared with 34% of oldest cohort, and more than 12% never married, compared with less than 4% of the oldest cohort. Also, mid boomer women married later, at age 24, compared with 21 for the oldest cohort.

The study also found that black women spent substantially less time married than white women. Black mid-boomer women spent 32% of their lives married compared with 59% for white women in the same age bracket. No specific explanations were given for the gap other than a footnote noting that the difference has “been documented elsewhere,” with a reference to another study.

The CRR study concludes that women as a group are “going to spend less than half their adult years as part of a couple…. [which] “shows up across race and educational attainment,” and “has significant implications for financial planning.”

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