Do you remember reading about Edith holding a sign that read, "Anything will Help, God Bless?"
She was in her early 70s, had never married and had worked as a cashier. She had no savings other than her and her mom's monthly SSI, whom she lived and cared for her until her passing.
Then, with only one SSI check to rely on, every month became a jugging act between paying for rent, medications and food.
Do you remember Lisa? She was college educated, had a full time mid-level job until she married and had kids. She quit her full time gig to look after her babies and then got a part time job. Her retirement pot progressively shrank from an initial 20% monthly contribution when employed full time to a paltry 5% when working part time.
When her husband passed, Lisa discovered their retirement savings, which she was counting on, had pretty much vanished due to unfortunate unilateral decisions made by her husband. She had to sell the family house, delay her retirement, downsize to a one-bedroom apartment rental and live on a modest fixed budget.
What Lisa and Edith and many women had in common is what experts in the field describe as the tottering three-legged stool — inadequate social security benefits, nonexistent or substandard pensions, and insufficient personal retirement savings.
There are many paths a woman can choose when planning for retirement, but they ultimately all lead to the same main road that can guide them to an economically sound future in their senior years. The key to successfully driving down that road is to be firmly in control behind the wheel.
At the most recent TransAmerican Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS) conference, held in 2018 the TCRS came out with a compendium of suggestions to begin addressing the fact that women need to take charge of their economic future since they have an 80% more likelihood than men to be impoverishment at 65 and older. Below is a 10 point summary.
1. Whether it's short term living expenses savings, or long term retirement savings, whether it’s for paying off debts, or achieving a financial goal, it’s up to YOU to design it and consistently and regularly keep saving.
2. YOU must be an equal, proactive partner in all long- and short-term family financial decisions and stay current and fully aware of your options regarding retirement investing.
3. YOU need to remind yourself that a penny saved is a penny earned and it all adds up in the end.
4. When YOU are looking for a job or negotiating for a raise, YOU need to factor in retirement benefits as a key part of your salary.
5. Wether your employer offers a retirement or a matching contribution plan or not, YOU need to use it to the max.
6. Participate in the IRS Saver’s Credit and make catch-up contributions if YOU can.
7. YOU need a long term game plan to achieve your retirement goals by figuring out how much YOU need to save yearly and YOU need to be prepared to sacrifice whatever it takes to get to that yearly goal.
8. When the time comes to decide wether to leave your job or reduce your work hours in order to provide care giving, YOU need to balance your emotions with your financial realties and goals since reduced work hours results in reduced retirement savings.
9. There’s nothing wrong with working after 65 if it will get YOU to the goal of a financially secure retirement a few years later. Never stop improving your working skills, be a lifetime learner and make yourself relevant and current for today's job market needs.
10. The most important factor to ensuring a financially secure retirement is YOU. Do whatever it takes to stay healthy.
The above TCRS directives are not by any means the sum total to solving the retirement discrepancy gap between men and women. They are nevertheless a good beginning to leveling the playing field for women as the move FULL SPEED HEAD towards retirement.
Allan Goldstein is a retirement coach and Long Beach resident.