Given longer lifespans, lower average incomes and the responsibilities of caring for children, grandchildren and aging parents, women face several unique challenges as they save and plan for retirement.
It doesn’t help that rising healthcare costs eat away at their savings, nor that their retirement accounts tend to be significantly smaller than men’s. With nearly double the savings shortfall – $522,000 compared to men’s $267,000 – the retirement crisis is hitting women the hardest.
Fortunately, advisors have an opportunity to help clients – married or not – address these risks. From tax-efficient investment and distribution strategies to better budgeting, there are a variety of ways to stretch a nest egg over a long lifespan.
In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the specific challenges women face in retirement. Now, we’ll cover some of the strategies clients can use to address those challenges, making the most of their available assets andtime as they work, save and plan for their futures.
Women bear most of the responsibility in caring for aging parents. A full two-thirds of unpaid caregivers are female, and female caregivers spend 50 percent more time providing care than their male counterparts. Likewise, many families put retirement saving on the backburner to prioritize their kids’ college funds.
But de-prioritizing retirement will only come back to bite the client and the people they care for.
“Saving for retirement needs to be a non-negotiable in your financial planning life,” says Karen Wimbish, senior vice president at U.S. Bancorp Wealth Management. “It’s relatively easy to borrow money to send your kids to college, but nobody lends you money to retire.”
After all, if a client doesn’t take care of her own finances, her kids (whose educations she funded) may have to take care of her later on. Becoming a burden is a top concern among boomer retirees – for women even more so than men – but explaining the long-term impact could keep a family on the right track with 401(k) contributions.
Longevity, lower pay and the retirement savings gap make it tough to provide for lasting retirement income. Inflation is also an ever-present concern, particularly when you consider the impotency of Social Security’s cost of living adjustment in the face of rising Medicare premiums.
So how can female clients maximize retirement income and hedge against inflation?
“They should invest more proportionally and invest more toward growth,” says Edward Jones’ Jennifer Marcontell, one of Barron’s Top 100 Women Advisors. “The time to take risk is when you’re younger. Millennials watched their parents get devastated, and while research shows they’re good savers, they’re much less willing to take risks.”
Retirement could last 30 years or more for a particularly healthy woman, and the assets she saved must grow significantly to last.
Aside from higher equity allocations in their 401(k)s, women might also want to prioritize after-tax investments during the accumulation phase.
“If someone’s been out of work for a while and they have discretionary income to save, another option is to build non-qualified assets,” says Courtney Horn, Women’s Choice Award-winning financial advisor with Minkoff and Associates. “It’ll help you maximize tax efficiency later on.”
A Roth IRA serves a similar purpose, though women who earn too much or who’ve left the workforce altogether won’t qualify. A brokerage account doesn’t offer the same tax-free distributions, but its gains will only be subject to capital gains tax, and it provides excellent liquidity with no required minimum distribution or early withdrawal penalties.
Finally, a deferred fixed annuity can provide lifelong income and peace of mind, albeit at a risk.