There are lots of potholes on the road to retirement, particularly if you’re a woman. At Vanguard, one of the nation’s largest financial firms, the average male customer has saved $121,000 in his retirement account, while the average woman customer has saved just $78,000.
To catch up, women need to understand the hurdles they face and figure out how to overcome them. Here are three roadblocks that could prevent you from retiring in comfort:
One: Women live longer. The average 65-year-old man can expect to live until age 84.3. The average 65-year-old woman can expect to live until age 86.6. While living longer beats the alternative, it costs money.
If you’re a woman, you’ll need more for living expenses and health care, particularly in your later years. You can estimate your own life expectancy with the help of online calculators such as the one at Livingto100.com. If the calculator estimates you’ll live to 95, you may want to work longer and hold off on claiming Social Security benefits. For each year you delay between full retirement age and age 70, you’ll get an increase in benefits. Another strategy is to buy an annuity that will provide monthly payments until you die.
Two: While women are catching up, they earn less than men, which means their nest eggs are smaller. Lower earnings also reduce the size of their Social Security benefits when they retire. To get past this obstacle, start saving as early as possible. That will give your savings more time to compound and grow. You should also check Web sites such as Glassdoor and PayScale to make sure you’re being compensated fairly.
Finally, learn more about investing so you can get the most from your retirement portfolio. Women tend to be less confident than men when it comes to investing, but a little bit of knowledge goes a long way.
Mutual funds are the easiest and most cost-effective way to build a portfolio. If you’re confused by the choices in your 401(k) plan or IRA, consider a target fund, which will automatically shift your savings into more conservative investments as you approach and enter retirement. Another option is to use low-cost index funds to build a balanced portfolio. If you’d rather invest in actively managed funds, check out the Kiplinger 25, our favorite no-load mutual funds.
Need more retirement advice? Read about 6 additional reasons why women struggle to retire.
Block joined Kiplinger in June 2012 from USA Today, where she was a reporter and personal finance columnist for more than 15 years. Prior to that, she worked for the Akron Beacon-Journal and Dow Jones Newswires. In 1993, she was a Knight-Bagehot fellow in economics and business journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has a BA in communications from Bethany College in Bethany, W.Va.
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