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  • Women’s History Month: A Time to Reflect on Women’s Retirement Challenges

    March 23rd, 2018


    Guest author: Lori Lucas, President and CEO, Employee Benefit Research Institute

    As we observe Women’s History Month, themed, “Nevertheless, She Persisted,” there are things to celebrate when it comes to women’s potential retirement security. Women are participating in workplace savings plans at a higher rate than men at every income level, and their contribution rates are higher, too.[1]

    But women still face greater retirement challenges than men do—and ironically it’s due to their longevity. The typical woman can expect to outlive her male counterpart by 5 years (age 76 versus 81).[2] This alone carries financial ramifications.

    However, as WISER points out in its Impact of Retirement on Women Report, because women live so long, they are:

    – More likely to spend longer periods of time in a state of chronic disability

    – Less likely to have a spouse-caretaker

    In other words, not only are women likely to need to fund a longer retirement, they may also need to fund higher out-of-pocket health care costs in retirement as well.

    An upcoming EBRI Issue Brief explores how much women are paying in out-of-pocket medical expenses in retirement compared to men, using actual reported medical expense of older individuals from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS).[3]

    The data show that when it comes to women’s chances of entering a nursing home, at the age of 95 or later, women are 13.5 percentage points more likely to enter a nursing home than men. Once in a nursing home, expenses can be significantly higher for these older women than for their male counterparts. On average, the longest-lived women pay 44% more in cumulative out of pocket nursing home expenses than men ($75,310 and $52,365 respectively).

    Again, the most likely explanation for this is that women live longer as singles, and so don’t benefit from spouses or partners as caregivers the way men may. This may hasten women’s entry into nursing homes as well as increase their length of stay once there. In other words, the evidence is that women are more likely to need more financial resources than men to meet their health care expenses during retirement, especially in cases where women who outlive their caregiving spouse or partner.

    So how does this translate into women’s confidence in being able to retire comfortably? EBRI’s 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey finds only small differences between how women and men rate their confidence when it comes to various aspects of having enough retirement income

    However, not surprisingly, roughly half of married men and women say they believe they will have enough money in retirement to pay for long-term care costs compared to 31 percent of single women being confident versus 36 percent of single men.

    The results make several things clear: most single women are worried about their ability to sustain themselves in retirement, and this appears to be driven in good part by the specter of potential health care costs. But equally importantly, married women may be underestimating their likelihood of facing some of their retirement years alone—as well as the potential financial consequences.

    WISER has plenty of information available at to help women plan and prepare for their future. Here are some resources:

    10 Ways Women (and Men) can SAVE Themselves from Retirement Shortfalls

    The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing

    Don’t Run With Your Retirement Money: Understanding Your Resources and How Best to Use Them

    Financial Steps for Caregivers: What You Need to Know about Protecting Your Money and Retirement

    Social Security: What Every Woman Needs to Know


    [1] How America Saves – Women versus Men in DC Plans. October 2015.

    [2] Population Reference Bureau

    [3] Cumulative Out-of-Pocket Health Care Expenses after the Age of 70

    America Saves Week: Talking about Saving Helps You Save

    March 1st, 2018

    America Saves Week (February 26 – March 3, 2017) is an annual opportunity for individuals to assess their savings and take financial action. Each year, WISER and other organizations across the country encourage savers – or potential savers –to set a goal, make a plan, and save automatically.

    At WISER, it’s almost like every week is America Saves Week– we’ve made it our mission to encourage women to be financially independent and prioritize saving for their long-term future. But on this week in particular, organizations across the country emphasize the importance of financial planning. We share ideas and support and encourage each other– an event that mirrors something that’s important for you to do, in your own financial life: talk about savings with your friends. Although it can be sometimes seen as impolite or taboo, talking about money, and more specifically long-term saving, can help you achieve your financial goals. Here’s why:

    1. It holds you accountable.

    There’s nothing like outside observation to help us accomplish our goals, no matter what they may be. When we’re only accountable to ourselves, it’s easy to let things slip or not try as hard, but when someone else is in on the plan, the pressure is on! Tell your friends about the specific goals you have this month when it comes to saving– say, cooking dinner at home more than going out in order to save cash. Post pictures on social media of your meals! The positive encouragement from friends will motivate you, and when making the decision in the future about whether to eat at home or at a restaurant, eating at home will seem even more appealing. Talking to your friends about your savings goals will hold you accountable, too, because it will mean that there will be someone to remind you of your plan when you’re thinking of abandoning it.

    2. You friends may give you great ideas.

    People often don’t talk about their savings goals, so you never know who similarly may be taking smart steps towards their retirement like you. If you share your goals with others, you may learn that they too are on the same path, and can offer you great advice on how to get there.

    3. It helps others.

    In the same way that you may not know that your friends and family are taking smart steps toward saving, you also may not know how others in your life are struggling with their finances. If you talk to them about the steps you are taking to save– and why it is important to do so– it may motivate them to move forward in a similar way in their own lives. Sometimes all it takes is a little extra encouragement to get the ball rolling!

    There are many other reasons why it’s a great idea to talk about your savings goals with your friends and family. America Saves Week, in particular, is an opportunity for individuals to assess their own saving status. WISER is proud to be a partner in this annual campaign. Take the America Saves Pledge and join the #ImSavingForSweepstakes that asks savers to inspire friends and family to save by sharing their goal or savings story on social media. You could win up to $750 toward that goal.

    Visit America Saves for more savings tips and information, and check out WISER’s resources to help you save and plan for a more financially secure future.


    You’ve Made Your Financial Resolutions. Here’s How To Actually Keep Them.

    January 18th, 2018

    octopus woman juggling many thingsAt the turn of every New Year, the internet is filled with lists of resolutions—ones that will help you get in shape, or improve your mood, or strengthen your relationships. Our favorite lists offer resolutions to help you get (or keep) your savings on track. The start of the year is a great time to set financial resolutions, and numerous websites offered great lists of financial goals for 2018. But much harder than setting the goals is actually keeping them. The former only takes a moment, the latter takes dedication and commitment, day after day, week after week. Commitment to resolutions tends to fade a few weeks into the year—people stop going to the gym, stop eating healthy, and, unfortunately, stop saving like they promised they would. Here’s our advice on not just the financial resolutions you should make, but how to keep them.

    Keep track of your progress.

    Many goals are unquantifiable, making it hard to know whether your efforts are worthwhile. That can prove to be an obstacle, but luckily, financial goals are easy to keep track of. Seeing the dollars rise in your account is a motivation to keep going. Downloading an app that tracks your savings can make this simple and will do all the calculations for you. Many banks and retirement plans offer them. Check out WISER’s blog post, “Save or spend? How apps can help you stay on track,” for a review of what’s available.

    If a goal is proving too difficult, reassess it, rather than dropping it all together.

    There is no shortage of recommendations for how much you should be saving. This financial new year’s resolutions list, for example, suggests that people save 15% of their gross incomes. If you make $60,000 a year that would be a savings goal of $750 per month. The percentage you should aim to save depends on a number of variables including your age and financial stability, but many people may find these goals hard to meet. WISER’s Seven Life-Defining Financial Decisions booklet offers advice on how to set the right goal for yourself.  If you can’t save 15%, don’t get discouraged. Instead of keeping the number too high and continuously failing to meet it, try readjusting your goal until you reach a level that is doable and appropriate. This will likely stop you from throwing away the goal completely.

    Work on one goal per month, rather than all of them at once.

    Many use the start of a year as a time to set goals, but why not the start of the month? Rather than loading yourself up with ten new financial tasks all at once, try adding in one new goal per month, so that by the time the month is over and it’s time to add a new goal, the first has already become a habit. January is a great time to create a budget or review the one you have, and the start of each new month would offer a chance to reassess that budget and your spending and savings habits. WISER’s Budget worksheet is a great resource to help get you thinking about your monthly income and expenses. In February, make a commitment to prioritize your debts—meaning analyzing all the debt you have, and figuring out what is the priority to pay off, based off which has the highest interest rate. Continuing setting a new financial goal each month and watch your financial confidence grow!

    Ask for help.

    Finally, remember that although many see finances as something that is private, talking to family and friends about your goals can be extremely helpful. Finding a buddy who is also trying to save, or who can offer advice, will make it much more likely that you reach your goals.


    About Us

    WISER is a nonprofit organization that works to help women, educators and policymakers understand the important issues surrounding women's retirement income. WISER creates a variety of consumer publications including fact sheets, booklets and a quarterly newsletter that explain in easy-to-understand language the complex issues surrounding Social Security, divorce, pay equity, pensions, savings and investments, banking, home-ownership, long-term care and disability insurance.

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