3 Ways Husbands Can Help Their Wives Build a More Secure Retirement

How to help your spouse save more and maximize Social Security benefits.

While more women than ever are in the workforce, many approach retirement with inadequate savings -- a real concern since women tend to live longer than men. Women who left the workforce to care for children or aging parents could also see their Social Security benefits reduced. Fortunately, there are several steps higher earning husbands can take to secure their spouse's financial security.

Open a spousal IRA. This tool provides a way for your wife to save for retirement, even if she has left the workforce to care for children or aging parents. As long as you’re married and file a joint tax return, you can contribute up to $5,500 to a spousal IRA ($6,500 if your wife is 50 or older) in 2016. Even if you're covered by a workplace plan, you can deduct the contribution to the spousal IRA as long as your combined modified adjusted gross income is $184,000 or less. If your combined MAGI is between $184,000 and $194,000, you can deduct a partial amount.

Alternatively, you can make a spousal contribution to a Roth IRA for your wife. You won't get a tax break, but as long as your wife has owned the Roth for at least five years and is at least 59½, all withdrawals are tax- and penalty-free. To qualify for a full contribution to a Roth, your joint MAGI must be $184,000 or less; you can make a reduced contribution if your MAGI is between $184,000 and $194,000.

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Boost Social Security survivor benefits. If you are the primary wage earner in your household, waiting until full retirement age or later to file for Social Security could be the best gift you'll ever give your wife.

If you die first, your wife will be eligible for 100% of the amount you were receiving from Social Security when you died, as long as she waits until her full retirement age to claim it. The longer you wait to claim, the higher her survivor benefits will be. If you wait until 70, your wife will be eligible for about 32% more in benefits than she would have received if you claimed at age 66.

Share your pension. If you're eligible for a traditional pension, you'll have an important decision to make when you retire: whether to take a single-life payment or the joint-and-survivor option. The single-life option, which your spouse must agree to, will deliver bigger benefits, but the payments will end when you die. With joint-and-survivor, payments will be smaller, but they'll continue for as long as either spouse is alive.

Sandra Block
Senior Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

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.