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Celebrating Women: A Look at Women’s Retirement Security

Thursday March 20, 2014

Every March we celebrate the profound impact women continue to have on American and world history. While Women's History Month is usually the designated time of year to robustly commemorate the contributions women have made to society, we also think it's a good time to take a look at the state of women's retirement security. After all, life after retirement is very important to "women's history."

First, let's be clear, the retirement picture is dismal for both men and women. But compared to men, women's retirement security is often less than adequate.

The United States Department of Labor reports married women tend to outlive their spouses by two years once they reach age 65 — that's two whole years of additional savings needed to cover the cost of living expenses that some do not factor in. Women also tend to take a more conservative approach when it comes to saving for retirement. Simply put, women do not invest in high-risk stocks because of the volatility of the stock market.

Another factor contributing to the bleak retirement outlook is women often delay saving for retirement. The Department of Labor also reports only 45 percent of the 62 million salaried women working in the United States contribute to a retirement plan.

Here's one reason why: Women, more often than men, are employed in part-time jobs and do not qualify for company retirement plans.

This means there is no retirement contribution on either party's behalf. Additionally, women often leave the workforce to care for their families which results in fewer years worked and fewer wages available to contribute to retirement.

But the bottom line is delaying saving for retirement is detrimental to women's retirement security. Fortunately, with just a few adjustments, women can get themselves on track to securing a healthy nest egg.

To live comfortably through the golden years, early and often retirement planning is crucial for financial sustainability. Women should put themselves in position now, as much as possible, to avoid hardships and headaches later.  

The National Institute on Retirement Security issued "Shattering the Retirement Glass Ceiling: Women Need a Three-Legged Stool," which examines the specific challenges facing women in retirement and assesses the policies that may help increase retirement security for women.