Etta James famously said, “This is a Man’s World, but it would be nothing without a Woman or a Girl.”
If I had a rand for every time one of my friends said they would love to be a man for a week I could retire tomorrow. We often think we are hard done by in some ways but there are even more blessings which we can count for being the fairer sex. We have come a long way since our mothers were our age in terms of gender equality and no doubt our daughters will be leaps and bounds ahead of us in the future.
Mars vs Venus
There is a saying which goes something like this: Why do women live longer than men? Because they can. Why do men die younger than women? Because they want to. Having said this we need to take a step back and look at what that means.
According to the Society of Actuaries, a 65 year old man has a 50% chance of living to 85 and a woman has a 50% chance of reaching age 88. Statistics however tell us that women live on average five to seven years longer than men. This means we have to plan to live on our retirement savings for a longer period. This is all fair and well if we start saving as soon as we start working, take no time off to bring up our children, preserve our retirement funds when we change jobs and retire at the age of 65.
Another consideration is that women earn on average 20 to 25% less than men. While the salary gap in the skilled and management positions is narrowing overall women still earn less.
As if that is not enough, women also tend to work 11 years less than their male counter parts. This could be for a number of reasons such as taking time off to raise the children, retirement funds differentiating retirement ages for men and women in the past or that married women decide to retire earlier because their older spouse is retiring and they want to retire together.
Women and investing
Women are generally less confident in making investment decisions and tend to err on the side of caution when selecting investment strategies. This means that while they do not lose money through market movements, they risk not keeping up with inflation and not accumulating enough capital at retirement age.
Looking at our story so far you will be correct in assuming that we are heading for the perfect storm. You would be wrong however to think there is nothing we can do about it. The saying goes ‘knowledge is power’. But knowing something and doing nothing is equally useless. So let’s look at some evasive tactics we can take to avoid a bleak retirement.
Planning your future
Plan to retire financially independent of your spouse or partner. I have never heard clients complain that they have too much money in retirement. Preserve your funds if you change jobs. Do not use this money to pay off debts. This money belongs to someone else… the older person you will become.
Women need to save more than men because we live longer. While it is generally recommended that you save 15% of your salary for retirement, women need to put away between 16 to 18% to make up for the additional years. Over time and with the compounding growth effect, a little bit more will go a very long way.
Work for as long as you possibly can. If you plan to take off time to raise a family you will need to save more when you return to work. Taking off five years means that you will need to save between 20 to 23% of your salary and 10 years off work means saving at least 28% of your salary. Of course this assumes that you preserved your retirement funds when you stopped work and that you will enter the job market where you left off salary wise.
Taking control of your decisions
Married women tend to outlive their husbands. Get involved in your finances and retirement planning as you have a 90% chance of having to do this on your own one day.
Take the appropriate investment risk in your portfolio. Yes it might be scary, but consider this; you can either sleep well before retirement or eat well in retirement. Considering your retirement could be 30 years or longer, that is a very long time to be financially strapped.
Being a woman certainly has its challenges as you can see but I would not change that for anything. Being a mother, a daughter, a sister and a friend to my special girlfriends is the most rewarding experience. While we have these rich rewards we have to accept that in our financial world we have to work harder, save more and plan better.