When the American College of Financial Services recently quizzed retirement-aged people on the basics of how to make their money last, just 35 percent of men passed the test. As troubling as that is, only 18 percent of women passed.
I am concerned for all of us, but especially for women. Because many women end up living alone at some point in retirement. That raises the odds that you will be in charge of managing your finances at some point in retirement, and it’s you who needs that money to outlast you.
We’ve talked before about the fact that on average, retirement age women live a few years more than men. Add in divorce and the growing number of women who have chosen to not marry, and we have a large pool of women who will be responsible for their financial security.
But to be honest the live-longer argument is almost secondary to my bigger concern: How in this day and age can women not want to be financially confident about their future? The only way to have that confidence is to be educated on what to do and not do. Yet only a minority of women in this survey had mastered the basics of Nest Egg management 101, such as the ins and outs of company retirement plans and annuities.
Please don’t tell me you don’t have time, or you will get to it later. It is the decisions you make today that will determine your future. How much you save today. How much you spend today. How much you might want to have set aside to cover retirement health care expenses. How to know a good annuity from a very bad annuity.
And for those of you who are married, please don’t fall into the trap of assuming that your spouse has taken care of everything. He, or she, likely has the best of intentions, and may have made terrific choices in setting up your retirement strategy. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to be actively aware of the strategy, and where you don’t understand something, get schooled. It’s your future that is going to be impacted. And the absolute worst time to have to do any financial learning is when a spouse dies. You are in no emotional shape to absorb information, let alone be making decisions about unfamiliar accounts and strategies.
The time has never been more right for women, especially retirement-age women to pull up a chair and be an equal participant in retirement planning.