Women live longer, make less money, and take care of loved ones more often than men. Couple these facts with countless studies on investor behavior that show that women approach investing decisions differently than men, and we see that our retirement planning should be treated differently too.
Here are three critical retirement planning musts for women.
1. Make prudent investing choices.
When we're young and have decades to invest, we can aim for big returns in retirement accounts. But as we near retirement, and know our investments need to produce reliable income, we need a different approach.
Women already place more emphasis on risk-return trade-offs than their male counterparts when investing. But these evaluations become even more important when managing retirement assets as we get older.
Think of how investing decisions will affect your lifestyle. Additional returns won't significantly impact your retirement security. Yet big losses can seriously disrupt your plans.
2. Take charge of your Social Security claiming options.
Depending on your marital status, you'll face different considerations in deciding when to take Social Security.
If you're married, make a choice that maximizes your benefits as a couple when considered over your longer life expectancy. Spousal claiming strategies include "file and suspend" and claiming a spousal benefit now and your own benefit later. If you're divorced and eligible for benefits on an ex-spouse's record, you may be able to claim a spousal benefit for a few years, then switch to your own higher benefit amount when you turn 70.
For single women who aren't eligible on anyone else's benefits, delaying Social Security is usually your best choice. Of course, that's assuming you have adequate income-producing assets or employment wages. Since benefits are increased by up to 32% -- about 8% per year -- if you delay taking benefits until age 70, strongly consider delaying your benefit if you can.
3. Carefully craft your long-term-care plan.
Take a three-step approach to your long-term-care needs.
First, plan on staying healthy and strong. Believe it or not, your biweekly tennis match is actually a very important part of your retirement plan.
Second, give serious thought as to how you might pool resources later in life. Will you depend on family and friends for your long-term-care needs? If so, have you notified them? Which assets of yours or sources of income will you use to pay for long-term-care services?
Last, seek insurance that helps cover the rising cost of care. Long-term-care insurance like that offered by Genworth Financial (NYSE:GNW) and Manulife Financial's (NYSE:MFC) John Hancock covers home care, assisted living, and nursing home services that women are very likely to need later in life. With the recent exodus from this market of big insurers like MetLife (NYSE:MET) and Prudential (NYSE:PRU) and more stringent underwriting that existing insurers require, long-term-care insurance is getting not only harder to obtain, but also more expensive.
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Because of the unique circumstances women face, your retirement planning demands careful attention. Take the time to address these issues thoughtfully and sensibly. Your financial future not only deserves it, but also depends on it.