All of us would like to think that we will enjoy a comfortable retirement. If you're a woman, however, you might be significantly more nervous than your male peers about life as a retiree. This fear may not be entirely justified, but, in any case, you can greatly improve your outlook for retirement by understanding where you are now -- and how to get where you want to go.
But first, you may have to overcome both fear and a financial "gender gap." Consider these findings from recent surveys conducted by Harris Interactive:
- Forty-six percent of women surveyed said they worry about losing all their money and becoming destitute. Surprisingly, this figure rises to 48 percent among women with incomes of $100,000 or more.
- Women were almost twice as likely as men to worry about money and to doubt their capacity to invest and plan for the future.
- Only 10 percent of women said they feel quite secure about their finances.
These figures, while disturbing, at least partially reflect some basic realities of women's lives.
First, women typically outlive men by nearly seven years, according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. More years of life mean more expenses.
Also, women drop out of the work force for an average of 12 years to care for young children or aging parents, according to the Older Women's League, a research and advocacy group. This time away from the work force results in women accumulating much less money in their employer-sponsored retirement plans.
Of course, if you are married, many of your financial assets are likely commingled with those of your husband. But that doesn't mean that you can abdicate responsibility for your financial future.
Some 80 to 90 percent of today's women will be solely responsible for their own finances at some point in their lives, according to the National Center for Women and Retirement.
So, what can you do to boost your confidence in your financial management skills? For starters, take a close look at all potential sources of retirement income: Social Security, savings, investments and retirement plan distributions. Estimate about how much you might have available for your retirement years.
Next, try to envision your "ideal" retirement lifestyle and put a "price tag" on it. For example, if you would like to continually travel the world when you retire, you're probably going to need more money from your retirement funds than someone who wants to stay home, pursue hobbies and possibly even open a small business.
It's not always easy to plan, save and invest for retirement.
Learn as much as you can about every aspect of your financial situation. You'll boost your confidence about having sufficient resources for retirement, and you'll probably enjoy it more when you get there.
-- Scott Flake is a financial adviser with the firm of Edward Jones. For more information, call (928) 468-1470.