Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Alone, living in poverty. Is that our fate?

"The Social Security benefits of women 65 and older average a modest $12,100 per year – but without them, half of women 65 and older would be poor." - National Women's Law Center.

By Julia Anderson
This is the time of year when we start thinking about taxes and mulling over household budgets for the coming 12 months. It's also a good time for people....married or single...to plan long-term for retirement.
If you're a working woman, ask yourself what your retirement will look like in 20 or 30 years? Where will your retirement income come from? If you're near retirement, maybe you should be asking your daughters these questions to help them to consider that life in long and they should plan for it.
As we know women live longer than men but tend to save less for their later years. The fact is that 32 percent of women over 65 will be living alone and that rate keeps increasing as we age.
Here's what the U.S. Census Bureau tells us:
- The poverty rate among elderly women is much higher than men by nearly double (18 percent vs. 10 percent).
- In 2010, there were 23 million older women (65 and older) versus 17.5 million older men living in the U.S.
- Thirty-two percent of women in the 65 to 74 age group are living alone.
- Nearly half of older women (75 and older) live alone.
- In the 85-to- 94 age group, women outnumber men, 7.58 million to 3.37 million.
- The poverty rate among elderly women, 65 and older, rose to 18.4 percent from 2010 to 2012.
- The median income of older persons in 2010 was $25,704 for males and $15,072 for females.
- Social Security constituted 90 percent of the income received by 35 percent of beneficiaries in 2009 (22 percent of married couples and 43 percent of non-married beneficiaries).
So how do we plan? Try out these questions on yourself or your daughters.
No. 1 - Am I taking advantage of all long-term investment opportunities....either a 401(k) through my employer or by setting up a Roth Individual Retirement Account of my own? These two options are by far the best ways to save for the long-term because they grow tax deferred or in the case of a Roth....tax-free over many years. If you're over 50, chuck as much as you can into these plans. Make sure you know what the management fees are per year. And don't be afraid of stocks because that's where you're going to earn the most retirement money.
No. 2 - Am I generally taking an interest in investing and in managing my money? It's fun and you don't have to be rich to do it. But with all the short-term gloom and doom and the technical TV blather, it's easy to be discouraged or intimidated.
Keep in mind that the American S&P 500 Stock Index has increased in value 2 percent a year for the past 60 years... not a bad track record. Quarterly dividend payouts from many of these companies boosts that annual earnings rate.
Start small and stick with it. Find a company that you know and like, then buy a few shares of it. There are plenty of brokerage firms to help get you started or go online and do it yourself. Doing it yourself is the most fun and the least expensive.
No. 3 - Make sure if you are working outside the home that you're being paid what your worth. Women working full-time year round in equivalent jobs are still earning some where between 77 cents and 90 cents for every $1 men earn, reports the U.S. Census Bureau.  (See table from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, click here.) Could this be our own fault?
Research shows that women tend not to negotiate raises as effectively as men and stay too long in lower-paying "safe" jobs. We also tend to be too conservative with our investing...hugging money market funds instead of stocks.
That means singles (as well as couples) must be involved in long-term financial planning. Women must be active in saving and investing. If you're single it's even more important...dive in and learn about investing.
The fact is that women outlive men. In our old age we may spend many years financially on our own. Don't just say, "I'll keep on working or I'll never be able to retire." That's a cop-out. Frankly, you can't bag groceries when you're 90....and many of us are going to live until we're 90.
According to the last census, there were 288,981 women age 95 to 99 alive in the U.S., along with another 44,202 who were age 100 or more. We have a long way to go.

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