Build your retirement nest egg
Your future self will thank you.
If you could earn enough money today to write yourself a paycheck in retirement, wouldn’t you jump at the opportunity to start working toward that goal? The reality is, most American women do not have enough retirement savings to sustain their current lifestyle or accomplish their retirement goals.
Whether you are single, married, divorced, or widowed, the importance of starting your own retirement plan is critical for your financial independence. In general, women live longer than men, earn less money than men, and are more likely to leave the workforce to step into a caregiving role for both children and aging parents. These challenges position women for an uphill battle when it comes to retirement planning and saving. The following sections address each life stage and how to prepare for retirement considering the unique challenges that women face.
Marriage is not a retirement plan, especially for young single women. Circumstances change, the economy ebbs and flows, and people enter and leave your life. Waiting to save for retirement until marriage produces no tangible benefits for you or your future spouse.
If you are single and working, forgoing an employer retirement plan match (usually in a 401(k), 403(b), or SIMPLE IRA) is like leaving free money on the table.
Single mothers bear an incredible financial burden for most of their lives. Remember to prioritize yourself and set aside as much as possible for your retirement. It may seem difficult now, but your children will appreciate the sacrifices you made to create a better life for them and for you. Financial independence decreases the chance of your children acting as your caregiver later in life.
If both you and your spouse are working, save as much as possible. Create a cash flow plan – if your income is higher than your expenses, great job! Continually look for opportunities to decrease expenses. For example, eat out less, review phone and internet packages, compare car insurance rates, stick to a list at the grocery store, and find free weekend activities in your community.
For married couples with kids, the tension between saving for your own retirement and saving for your kids’ college tuition can be stressful. Think about this – alternative sources of funding are available for college; for example, scholarships, grants, loans, work-study, and part-time jobs are excellent ways to help with the cost of college. On the other hand, alternatives for retirement savings are few and far between. By prioritizing your own retirement savings, you will be financially independent and may be able to help your kids get on their feet after graduation.
If you and your spouse want to have one parent at home to raise kids, it’s possible to save for retirement even if one spouse isn’t “working” (we all know that raising kids is challenging, full-time, unpaid labor). A spouse working outside the home may contribute to an IRA in your name. Be sure to check the tax status, earnings and age requirements of a spousal IRA to be sure you qualify.
Developing a healthy nest egg is paramount for recently divorced women. After the dust has settled, you may be thinking – now what? If you are still working, consider saving more for retirement than you did while you were married. Financial independence will build confidence and get you closer to your retirement goals.
Now is the time to assess your skills, capabilities, and passions to help crystallize your ideas about retirement and what you want to accomplish. Retirement is the opposite of boring – think of retirement as an encore career.
At the passing of your spouse, you may feel overwhelmed and burdened by the financial decisions thrown at you every day. Assets that were under the control of your spouse are now yours to manage and invest according to your preferences and your risk level.
Find a financial advisor who understands your situation and strives to educate you – not sell you something. Ask questions – if you’ve never met your husband’s financial advisor, now is the time to find your own advisor.
When it comes to Social Security, the loss of a spouse can mean less income each month. You will not continue to receive two Social Security benefits if your husband passed away. A decrease in income may cause stress. Look at your entire financial picture with a financial advisor to determine if any changes should be made.
No matter your life stage or age, building a retirement nest egg for yourself increases the likelihood of financial independence in the future. Whether retirement is just around the corner or a long way down the road, start planning now to pave the way for a life that reflects your values, goals, and aspirations.