Happy Women's Equality Day! In the 100 years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment, women have made substantial gains in educational attainment, employment, and earnings. However, the gender gaps persist — especially when it comes to retirement.
On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified, giving women the right to vote. One hundred years later, women still strive for equality in many areas, and retirement planning is one of them.
Women are less prepared for retirement and often have fewer resources available to them. This can mean a lower standard of living during the retirement years. There are many reasons why women fall behind on planning. A prominent reason is that they are more likely than men to pause their careers to raise children or care for aging parents. This pause often results in lost work time and lower income levels. Women also live longer than men, so they need more savings for a longer retirement period.
As for financial know-how, researchers found that on average, women correctly answered 45% of financial-related questions, compared with 55% among men, according to a survey conducted earlier this year by the TIAA Institute and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC) at the George Washington University School of Business. While baby boomer women correctly answered 51%, that share is 41% and 38% among millennials and Gen Z women, respectively.
Here, Agemy Financial Strategies has put together some helpful steps for women to help them better prepare for retirement.
If you are falling behind on saving for retirement, the first question to ask yourself is "how can I make up for shortfalls". The obvious answer here is to keep on working.
Abundant job opportunities may help women rejoin the workforce or find better-paying opportunities. Available job openings hit a record 11.55 million in March, according to the latest government data. If you are still in the workforce, consider a phased retirement. A phased retirement is just like it sounds - a path towards retirement where you slowly begin taking more vacations, working fewer hours and essentially becoming part-time on your own time.
During phased retirement, workers can still collect a paycheck, just for less money. They can supplement their pay with withdrawals from company-sponsored retirement plans if necessary.
- Continue accumulating wealth. If your employer offers a phased retirement plan, there may be provisions that allow you to continue saving for retirement or earning retirement benefits through a pension. That means you don’t miss out on opportunities to add to your wealth, even if you’re working less.
- Mental/emotional health. One of the negative side effects of retirement is that workers may feel lost or without purpose once they’re no longer on the job. Working on a part-time basis during a phased retirement can yield mental and emotional benefits if it makes older employees feel fulfilled.
- Prepare for the real thing. Phasing retirement and continuing to work reduced hours can give you an idea of what life might be like once you fully retire. This can help you decide how you want to use your time or even whether retiring is what you truly want to do.
Part Time Work Counts, Too
If you want more stability and a steady income stream, part time work can help bring in some cash. When you're planning your retirement, it's important to remember that Social Security benefits are calculated based on the 35 highest-earning years in your career. That means that if you worked part time in any of those years, those years will be counted as zero income. This has two effects: there are zero quarters for eligibility and zero income counted toward the benefit. Part-time work - like a phased retirement - can provide quarters for Social Security eligibility and some income, which is better than none at all.
Spousal IRA Contributions
As you get older your needs and wants change. Earlier in life perhaps you got married and had kids. And as you near retirement, you’ll have grandkids with whom you want to spend time with. You know that staying at home with your grandkids is no vacation. It's work—important and essential work—which means you should have a retirement savings plan that goes with it.
A spousal IRA is a type of individual retirement account that allows a working spouse to contribute to a nonworking spouse’s retirement savings. A Spousal IRA creates an exception to the provision that an individual must have earned income to contribute to an IRA. Spouses with some earned income, but not enough to fund an IRA fully, can also qualify for the Spousal IRA.
To qualify, the couple must file a joint tax return. Spousal IRAs can be either traditional or Roth IRAs, and are subject to the same annual contribution limits, income limits and catch-up contribution provisions as traditional and Roth IRAs. While IRAs cannot be held jointly in both spouse’s names, spouses can share their account distributions in retirement.
If you're 50 or older, you can take advantage of additional contributions to your retirement accounts.
Workers who are younger than age 50 can contribute a maximum of $20,500 to a 401(k) in 2022. That's up $1,000 from the limit of $19,500 in 2021. If you're age 50 and older, you can add an extra $6,500 per year in "catch-up" contributions, bringing your total 401(k) contributions for 2022 to $27,000.
Catch-up provisions are especially helpful for women who entered the workforce late, have a checkered job history, or delayed saving for retirement to pay for the kids' braces or college tuition.
Plan NOW for the Future
Many women are saving for retirement, but they have not yet started engaging in financial planning with a professional. About 28% of women never talk about retirement, versus 17% of men, according to Transamerica. Moreover, just 17% of women frequently discuss saving, investing and retirement planning, compared to 28% of men. Women who aren't afraid to ask questions and seek the advice of financial advisors tend to thrive in their journey to financial independence.
No matter at what stage of life you may be, you can start looking for the best professionals to help you with financial planning for women. There are plenty of sources for help and advice. You can do some research online, talk to industry experts, and make the right decision for investment.
With a commitment to financial literacy and the ensuing confidence that stems from increased knowledge about money through an experienced financial advisor, women can make significant strides to increasing their retirement savings and planning for life events that could place stress on the money they do have saved.
Why Agemy Financial Strategies
Women deserve to retire comfortably. So, let’s make that happen!
Women’s Equality Day is a great time to remind yourself and others of the importance of planning for retirement. Women are often less prepared for retirement than men are, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here at Agemy Financial Strategies, we know how important it is for women to plan now for a comfortable retirement that they deserve and will enjoy. As Fiduciary advisors, it's our duty to act on your behalf in finding the right solutions for your individual wants and needs.