Each quarter, we shine a spotlight on an area of personal finance that presents unique challenges for women. By bringing the subject into focus, our community of expert contributors will share their insights, advice and solutions with us so that we all in a better position to make the best informed decisions.

Current focus area - women and retirement

Women, retirement and the unique challenges we face


Here’s a telling fact to digest – from the age of 65 to the end of life, the majority of American women are single, whereas the majority of men are married. What does that mean for women retirees?

For one thing, it means that most are not able to take advantage of the old adage “two can live more cheaply than one,” where, for example, two Social Security incomes help pay for shared living costs. Furthermore, while it is tempting to argue that many of those single 65+ women were once married and therefore have the wealth of a deceased spouse to ease the transition, the statistics suggest otherwise. After losing a partner through death or divorce, a woman’s standard of living generally declines.

But even before age 65, the road to retirement security is a lot more challenging for women. The above is also coupled with other statistics such as:

  • Women live longer than men (usually by about 5 years), which means that they have to make their savings and investments last longer
  • Years of earning less than a male counterpart affect both savings rates and eventual Social Security benefits (i.e. both are lower than the average male)
  • Because women often remain the primary caretakers of children and the elderly, they work about seven fewer years compared to men, which again translates to less years of potential retirement savings and Social Security credits

So given the reality that women must (to borrow a golf metaphor) drive harder and hit the ball longer to reach the green of a secure retirement, this month's area of personal finance focus will enlighten women about the challenges they face in retirement and provide practical steps that every woman should be taking to attain that security.