- Longer life expectancies than men -- No matter when you were born, your life expectancy is going to be longer than that of your male age-group peers. Obviously, these "extra" years of life mean more expenses.
- Lower earnings than men -- In 2006, women who worked full time earned, on average, 81 percent of what their male counterparts earned, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the future, this gap may narrow, because the earnings of younger women entering the work force today are very close to those of men. But if you've been in the work force for many years, there's a good chance that your earnings trail those of your male peers.
- More time out of the work force -- To raise their families, women spend far more time out of the work force than men. During those years away, women are not contributing to Social Security, pension plans or 401(k) plans -- which means they'll have less retirement savings than men.
- Contribute as much as you can to your retirement plans. Each year, put in as much as you can afford to your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan. And when you get a raise, increase your contributions. Also, if you don't have a traditional or Roth IRA, open one -- and try to fully fund it each year.
- nvest for growth. Some evidence suggests that women may be more conservative investors than men. But if you're going to achieve your long-term objectives, you'll need to invest for growth. That means you'll need a certain amount of your portfolio devoted to stocks. It's true, of course, that you can lose some -- or even all -- of your principal in stocks. But if you purchase a variety of quality stocks and hold them for the long term, you may be able to reduce the effects of market volatility and potentially earn a rate of return that can help you make progress toward your objectives.