Last Updated Dec 13, 2010 11:34 AM EST
Here are five key reasons your retirement could be at risk, according to the report:
Reason #1: Planning horizons are too short. Most women can expect to live 20 or more years after age 65. However, nine out of 10 women in retirement or close to retirement don't plan nearly that far into the future.
Reason #2: Outliving assets is a risk. On average, women live 20 years after age 65, while men live 17 years. So women are more likely than men to outlive their assets. In fact, four out of 10 women over age 65 who are living alone depend on Social Security for virtually all their income.
Reason #3: Married women need to prepare for widowhood. Because men tend to marry younger women, and women tend to outlive men, periods of widowhood of 15 years or more are not uncommon. The numbers show that 85 percent of women over age 85 are widows, while only 45 percent of men over age 85 are widowers. Yet there's a planning disconnect here. Only seventeen percent of female retirees and 27 percent of female pre-retirees said they would be worse off if their husband passed away; the majority of married women think their financial situation would be the same or better if their husband passes away. However, the reality is that most widows have significantly lower income after their husband dies.
Reason #4: Women need to plan for long-term care. Women are more likely than men to have chronic disability in their later years and need care in a long-term care facility, or need a paid caregiver. The expected average value of the cost of lifetime long-term care services is $29,000 for males and $82,000 for females, although these amounts can get far higher for some people.
Reason #5: Women have a greater need to plan for medical expenses. Retirement incomes are generally less for women than for men, but they don't have lower health care costs. And women are less likely to have medical insurance from their employer, compared to men.
"This report underscores the need for women to understand the full-blown drama of retirement," says Cindy Hounsell, president of the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER), which co-sponsored the report with the Society of Actuaries. "For most women, there's little room for error, and being unprepared for nearly a third of their lives will have consequences."
What You Should Do
So what kind of retirement planning should be done by women (and their husbands if they're married)? First, women need to be significantly involved in planning for their future. Too often, I hear women say "My husband does all our retirement planning." Well, maybe he's doing a good job or maybe he's not, but regardless, if he dies first, you're the one who's going to have to live with the results. Recognize that the decisions you make -- or that your husband makes -- at retirement will have a lasting impact on your financial security. Do your homework carefully.
Here's a quick summary of the planning you'll want to do:
- Get a good idea of how long you might live by visiting www.bluezones.com or www.livingto100.com and using one of their lifespan calculators. The results will be your planning horizon; resist the temptation to plan just for the next five or ten years.
- Figure out the best time to start your Social Security benefits. Often the best decision is to delay receiving benefits as long as possible.
- Use your IRAs, 401k accounts, and retirement savings to generate retirement income that lasts the rest of your life. If you're married, this income should last as long as either of you are alive. Learn about the various retirement income generators and their pros and cons.
- Develop a strategy for paying for long-term care expenses.
- Be very serious about taking care of your health to reduce the odds of contracting chronic, expensive diseases in your later years, and to avoid needing expensive long-term care.
- Consider working in your later years.
- Take a good look at your living expenses. Make every dollar count!
A good friend of mine, Patti Houlihan, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) who runs her own financial planning firm, sums it up nicely: Plan, plan, plan. Life will be so good if you do.
More on MoneyWatch:
- When Should You Start Social Security Benefits? Do the Math!
- IRAs and 401k: 3 Ways to Generate Lifetime Retirement Income
- Strategies for Addressing the Long-Term Care Threat
- Will Good Health Save You Money in Retirement or Not?
- How to Find Retirement Work That Pays
- How Much Does the Good Life Cost?
- Husbands: Poor Retirement Planning Could Lead to Desperate Housewives