Why women need to plan for longevity in retirement, and how to do it

While longevity is a critical factor for everyone’s retirement plan, it’s especially imperative for women. Women tend to live longer than men, but they statistically earn less throughout their lifetime. Because of this, extended longevity should be a cornerstone of your retirement plan. 

Here’s why women need to plan for longevity and five tips to get started.

Why Women’s Longevity Matters In Retirement Planning

Women live on average 5.4 years longer than their male counterparts. In terms of retirement planning, that’s over five extra years worth of housing, groceries, insurance, healthcare costs, taxes, and travel expenses. These extra years aren’t likely to come cheap, especially considering the rising cost of healthcare for retirees. 

A healthy 65-year-old couple is expected to spend about $12,286 annually on healthcare costs. By the time that couple turns 80, and accounting for inflation, that number jumps to $27,060.

The older you get, the more you will spend on medical care. Accommodating this anticipated cost climb is vital to preserve and protect your retirement income.    

Gender Wage Gap

There’s a need for more savings in a woman’s retirement income plan, yet women statistically earn less than men. 

The wage gap impacts women’s lifetime earnings. On average, women only earn 82 cents for every dollar a man makes. Throughout a career, those gaps can lead to a mismatch in retirement savings.

Caretaking

On top of a gap in earnings, women are also more likely to leave the workforce at some point during their careers, typically to take care of children or aging loved ones. In fact, an estimated 66% of caregivers in America are female.4 

The average caregiver of an aging loved one is 49 years old, which puts her in or close to her peak earning years. Reducing hours or taking leave during this time can drastically reduce her earning and saving potential.

Women at this age may find themselves caring not only for aging parents but also for their adult children. Both create a financial and emotional strain, often causing caretakers to put their own savings goals on the backburner.

Longevity and Wellness

Does longevity run in your family? 

Some people have grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even parents who live well into their late 80s and 90s. While it’s not always the most accurate measure, it’s important to acknowledge the potential for longevity (or lack thereof) in retirement.

Don’t forget—a long life doesn’t always equal a healthy and happy life. While preparing your retirement plan to address your income needs, consider how to make the most of those added years. 

Do things now like developing healthy eating habits, participating in exercise regularly, and keeping your mind moving to give yourself a leg up later in life.

5 Ways Women Can Plan For a Long Life

Below I’ve identified five ways women can better prepare for longevity in retirement.

#1: Know Your Goals

Define your goals for retirement and decide what you value most. These should light the way and guide any significant financial decisions you make between now and then.

#2: Understand Your Health Costs

As I mentioned before, healthcare costs are only expected to climb the older you get. In fact, it’ll likely be your biggest ticket item in retirement. Work now to create a buffer for those expected costs. 

Research the right healthcare coverage for your needs, including Medicare and its supplemental parts. If you’re eligible, contribute to your HSA account. In 2022, you can contribute up to $3,650 for individuals or $7,300 for families, plus a $1,000 catch-up contribution for those 55 and over.

Don’t forget, in addition to providing coverage for eligible medical expenses in retirement, your HSA offers three key tax benefits:

  1. Before-tax contributions lower taxable income
  2. Money in the account grows tax-free
  3. Withdrawals on qualified expenses are tax-free

In addition to health insurance, consider long-term care coverage. Long-term care insurance can be especially beneficial if you have a family history of health issues later in life, as this type of coverage has the potential to reduce strain on your retirement income.

#3: Increase Your Investments

No matter where you’re at in your retirement savings journey, there is likely an opportunity to save a bit more. Take advantage of that time now.

Once you turn 50, you can start adding catch-up contributions to your retirement accounts. At age 55, you can add an additional $1,000 to your HSA.

Make it a goal to increase your savings with every raise or time you pay off a debt. If there’s more room in your cash flow, reroute more of it toward your savings. Thanks to the power of compounding interest, every dollar saved impacts your retirement.

#4: Minimize Debt

Try to keep your debt low. Doing so is an effective way to give your cash flow some breathing room for extra spending (or saving). The more flexibility you bring to your retirement income plan, the more prepared you are to address unexpected expenses as they arise.

#5: Maximize Social Security Benefits

Plan now how you’ll maximize your Social Security benefits. Waiting until age 70 gives you the largest monthly payments, which is essential for someone who plans on living a long life in retirement.

If you’re married or divorced, consider your spousal benefits. Can you get more through your spousal or ex-spousal benefits than your own? 

Think about survivor benefits as well. You and your spouse should maximize the higher earner’s benefits to account for better survivor benefits.

Social Security benefits play an integral part in your retirement plan. I’m happy to help answer any questions or take a look at your benefits to see how we can make the most of them in retirement.

Work With Someone Who Can Help

I specialize in helping women feel confident in retirement, even if it’s a little longer than they anticipate. Get in touch anytime; I’m happy to discuss how we can prepare together for a long and fulfilling retirement.