The trends are clear – as women age the odds are they will be living alone, largely because of either divorce or widowhood.
What may be less clear for many of them is whether they are prepared for that life alone – both emotionally and financially, says Susan Hickey, a financial professional atYour Own Retirement LLC.
“Although both men and women could live three or four decades in retirement, it’s more likely for women because they have longer life expectancies,” Hickey says. “But they also often have less in savings, and smaller or no pensions, so their longevity can work for them and against them.”
Almost half (46 percent) of women who are 75 or older live alone, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living.
But women, many of whom are heads of households, don’t always do a good job of planning for their retirements because they spend so much of their time thinking about the needs of others – their children, their spouses, their aging parents, Hickey says.
“They need to realize that their happiness and security in their later years can hinge on so many things, and not just their savings,” she says. “So many factors come into play.”
Hickey says some mistakes women make in planning for retirement, and what they can do to correct those mistakes, include:
Failing to participate in planning.Many women traditionally have left the retirement planning to their husbands, and that’s a mistake, Hickey says. Women should be actively involved. They need to understand their financial situation, what would happen if their spouse dies and where all the important papers are kept. When a meeting occurs with a financial professional, they should be part of that and help make the decisions.
Underestimating how long they will live.For some reason, many women have trouble imagining just how long retirement might last. Life expectancy for females in the United States is about 81, and that’s an average. Many women will live into their 90s, and some will pass 100. When planning and saving, women need to consider that they might still be living 30 or 40 years after they retire.
Failing to protect their health.Maintaining your general health and well-being is important because medical costs can eat into retirement money, Hickey says. The nest egg that someone thought would be more than sufficient can start disappearing quickly when there are significant medical issues. Women need to make sure they get exercise, eat healthy meals and keep up with those doctor visits.
“So much of this is connected,” Hickey says. “When women feel that they have a good financial plan in place, they are more likely to feel secure, and that’s good for both their physical health and their emotional health.”
As an independent woman, do you feel financially secure?
I'll be honest with you ... I personally do not feel financially secure.
Why? Because since leaving a career in financial journalism in 2015 to pursue other creative opportunities, I've been through three layoffs. With every layoff, I had to dip into my savings to stay afloat. The last layoff wiped me out clean.
These days I'm trying to make sense of it all. I'm also trying to figure out how to get back my financial independence, how to get to that point of my career where I'm back to making a six-figure income, and how to live below my means in the meantime.