Make no mistake, there are very real differences between the sexes when it comes to retiring in America.
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Women nearing retirement age or there already, specifically, have several factors which cause their financial burden to significantly outpace those of a similarly-aged male. As the sex that physically bears children, this science often causes an interruption in their career, even for those determined to return to work immediately.
When more than one child is involved, this interruption is compounded. While many women routinely return to their pre-child work schedule quickly, numerous others happily choose to take an extended leave of absence while their children are young, further extending earnings interruptions.
Along this same line is another natural earnings interrupter. As the gender that has been the historical caretaker in the family unit, many women also suspend work to care for an aging or sick parent when assisted living facilities are not desired or are financially unfeasible. This absence can add several additional years of an earnings pause.
When you combine these earnings interruptions with a gender pay gap that still exists, a comparatively lower Social Security benefit and a smaller private retirement account balance are an almost certainty.
In addition to these working-years differences, there are two other areas that make retirement financial needs for women comparatively larger than that of men and these are both a matter of biology.
First, women naturally live longer than similarly aged men, a mortality fact recognized in every actuarial table since the first one. According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, more than two-thirds of Americans over age 85 are women.
As women marry men their age or even a few years older, their probability of outliving their spouse and becoming a widow is very high. The financial burdens that befall both female and male widows alike can be a difficult monetary transition. However, given that women are significantly more likely to be widowed than men, according to The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics (Forum), this additional financial concern is more often borne by women.
And while we women live longer (and alone), we also live more sickly in our later years, something referred to as morbidity. This state of living longer but with more health issues creates the added financial burden of chronic long-term health care needs. These range from home-health assistance with the activities of daily living, to assisted-living facilities as they become necessary, to 24/7 nursing home care (more than 70 percent of nursing home residents today are women, according to AARP.)
So, for yourself, your wife, mother, aunt and/or grandmother -- make sure these issues are taken into account when sitting down with a financial advisor to come up with a long-term retirement plan.
Rebecca Walser is a tax attorney, a certified financial planner, and the author of Wealth Unbroken, who specializes in the strategic planning of maximizing lifetime wealth while minimizing tax through her practice, Walser Wealth Management (www.walserwealth.com). She earned her juris doctor degree from the University of Florida and her Master of Law degree in taxation from New York University. She is a frequent national media contributor.