MANHATTAN, Kan. – Women usually earn less than men, but live longer. Many women also interrupt their work life or career to care for children or elderly parents, and that will likely mean fewer contributions to Social Security and 401(k) or other retirement savings.
While many will want to continue working to allow retirement savings to build, some may not be physically able to continue working or may not have access to job opportunities that pay a living wage, said Carol Young, Kansas State University Research and Extension financial management specialist.
Women typically have three primary choices for funding retirement income: Social Security contributions, access to a pension, or a do-it-yourself plan with regular contributions to investment tools such as a 401K or an IRA, Young said.
Since Social Security is intended to supplement other income, pensions and previous retirement benefits that may be shrinking – or disappearing, the do-it-yourself plan becomes essential in preparing for a secure financial future.
“It’s critical for women – and men, for that matter – to save and invest to provide income for retirement years when income typically shrinks and expenses for health care can increase, Young said.
If not already a savvy money manager, now is the time to learn all that you can about managing money, saving, and investing, said Young, who added that it is important for single women, but also for women who may have a healthy marriage or relationship, to have assets in their name.
Few are immune to financial challenges, she said. Sometimes women who believe that they and their spouse will face the future together find themselves stretched financially due to an accident, illness or the end of a relationship and division of assets that erodes their financial foundation.
To build a more secure future, Young recommends starting with a financial health check-up:
* Set up a financial notebook or file box, and take stock of finances, including money in, money out, regular expenses, current account balances, debt load, and current insurance policies. Do you, for example, have mortgage insurance in the event a spouse or partner, who also is contributing to monthly payments, dies unexpectedly?
* Track expenses, and look for ways to reduce and eliminate debt and unnecessary expenses that could go toward retirement savings.
* Survey financial service/investment providers to check opportunities available.
* Make an appointment with the local Social Security Office to check your status and estimated benefit; keep this and all other records in a financial notebook or file.
* Think ahead. What if you or a family member lost his or her job unexpectedly? Were injured in an accident and couldn’t work? Or, diagnosed with a severe chronic illness? How much money do you have in reserve? And, how long can you stay afloat?
* Don’t plan to retire? Can’t picture getting older? Try looking around the community (or your planned retirement destination) and try to visualize yourself in retirement by thinking about the life you’d like to lead.
“Doing so can provide an incentive to add to a retirement account regularly,” Young said.
“If getting a late start, don’t be discouraged. It’s never too late to start saving, and, equally important to keep saving and investing for your future financial well-being,” she said.
More information on money management, including Kansas’ participation in Kansas Saves, a state campaign inspired by the Consumer Federation of America’s America Saves Program is available at local K-State Research and Extension offices and online.