There are lots of potholes on the road to retirement, particularly if you're a woman. At Vanguard, one of the nations largest financial firms, the average male customer has saved $121,000 in his retirement account. While the average woman customer has saved $78,000. To catch up, women need to understand the hurdles they face and figure out how to overcome them. Here are three roadblocks that can prevent you from retiring in comfort.
1. Women live longer
The average 65-year-old man can expect to live until age 84.3. The average 65-year-old woman can expect to live until 86.6. While living longer beats the alternative, it costs money. If you're a woman, you'll need more for living expenses and healthcare particularly in your later years.
You can estimate your own life expectancy with an online calculator, such as the one provided on www.livingto100.com. If the calculator estimates you'll live till age 95, you may want to work longer and hold off on claiming social security benefits. For each year you delay between full retirement age and age 70, you'll get an increase in benefits. Another strategy is to buy an annuity that will provide monthly payments until you die.
2. Get the pay you deserve
While women are catching up, they earn less than men, which means their nest eggs are smaller. Lower earnings also reduce the size of their social security benefits when they retire. To get past this obstacle, start saving as early as possible. That will give your savings more time to compound and grow.
You should also check websites such as Glassdoor and Payscale in order to make sure that you're being compensated correctly.
3. Educate yourself on retirement
Learn more about investing so you can get the most out of your retirement portfolio. Women tend to be less confident than men when it comes to investing, but a little bit of knowledge goes a long way.
Mutual Funds are the easiest and most cost effective way to build a portfolio. If you're confused by the choices in your 401K plan or IRA, consider a target fund, which will automatically shift your into more conservative funds as you approach and enter retirement.
Another option is to use low cost index funds to build a balanced portfolio. If you'd rather invest in actively managed funds, check out the Kiplinger 25 for a list of no load mutual funds.
Click on the pictures below to learn of 10 ways you can invest to become a millionaire.
10 ways to invest to become a millionaire
3 reasons why women will never retire
Include taxes in your tally.
Withdrawing money from retirement accounts is, of course, not a free ride, so $1 million gross is not $1 million net. “If the $1 million were in a traditional 401(k) or IRA, all withdrawals would be taxable,” says Christine Pavel, vice president of wealth management at GCG Financial in Deerfield, Illinois. “You also have to consider how much the investor will withdrawal from the portfolio, and for how long.” Assuming 3 percent inflation, looking forward 30 years and accounting for retirement account taxes, “An investor would be lucky to be able to withdraw $20,000 or less from the account for 30 years,” she says.
If you're in your 20s and start investing now, you’re in luck, says Joe Jennings, wealth director for PNC Wealth Management in Baltimore. “Due to the power of compounding, the first dollar saved is the most important, as it has the most growth potential over time,” he says. As an example, Jennings compares $10,000 saved at age 25 versus age 60. “The 25-year-old has 40 years of growth potential at the average retirement age of 65, whereas $10,000 saved at age 60 only has five years of growth potential,” he says.
Consider annuities as a building block.
Annuities, which people purchase to get an expected payout once they reach maturity – usually at or after retirement age – also have a rough reputation, particularly indexed annuities. But last year’s Qualified Longevity Annuity Contract regulation by the IRS set guidelines for investors to create their own pensions. “You can invest and put money in a retirement account, and with annuity guarantees that you will never outlive your money,” says Stan “The Annuity Man” Haithcock, an annuities expert and author of the book, "The Annuity Stanifesto," based in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
It may seem sexier to get in on the latest initial public offering or that new stock your Uncle Mortimer promises will take off. But that’s no way to build a nest egg through the years, says Jim Merklinghaus, founder and president of JBM Financial in Rutherford, New Jersey. “My philosophy has been a conservative approach to retirement, investing consistently over a 30-year period of time. If your principal is 100 percent safe, you have already accounted for 12 years of a normal 30-year retirement. The plan that avoids the loss of principal far exceeds the joy of temporary returns,” he says.
Diversify between companies large and small.
Risk tolerance and portfolio mix are major factors in getting to $1 million, and they’ll differ depending on the investor. But if there’s one universal that applies, ”The portfolio should be diversified among large- and small-company stocks, domestically as well as in established foreign countries and emerging markets,” says Kenneth Moraif, senior advisor at Money Matters in Plano, Texas. “The appropriate allocation in each of these asset classes will be determined by the investor’s time horizon, their current assets, age and tax bracket.”
Use that 401(k) all the way.
Since retirement is the major savings goal with most nest eggs, make sure you maximize your retirement savings, says Andy Saeger, vice president and senior financial consultant at Charles Schwab in Naperville, Illinois. “Max out your 401(k) or other employer retirement plan, especially if you receive matching contributions. If you're age 50 or older, make catch-up contributions. If you can afford to save more, you may be eligible to open and contribute to an IRA, where your money can grow tax-deferred or tax-free until retirement,” Saeger says.
Thou shalt pay thyself first.
What used to be simple, sound advice is more of a commandment when $1 million or more is the goal. “If you make the financial plan first and then build your life around it, the outcomes are typically very positive,” says Mike Chadwick, CEO of Chadwick Financial Advisors in Unionville, Connecticut. “Most people do the opposite: They set up their life and then try to save after the fact, when it’s painful to do so. When something is paid off, save the extra money and you won’t feel the pain. And when you get raises, save the money until you’re on target.”
Avoid the temptation to spend first.
Most investors, especially in their younger years, think they can easily make up for copious spending and shopping. “This is certainly possible, but will require a potentially difficult, if not impossible, return on the investment or a significant increase in savings,” says Bellaria Jimenez, managing partner with MetLife Premier Client Group, based in Cranford, New Jersey. ”Investors must ignore temptations to spend and instead save.”
Patience, patience, patience.
Just as it takes years to get to retirement age, you’ll want to stick it out, as some investments hit expected bumps. “Over a typical working career, an investor can expect to experience at least eight to 12 poor market years,” says Jakob Loescher, a financial advisor with Savant Capital Management and based in Rockford, Illinois. “During these years, it’s important that the individual remain patient and not make any large market-timing mistakes.”
And finally, answer the $2.3 million question.
That’s how much money you’d need in 2045 to have the same purchasing power as $1 million today, assuming a 3 percent annual inflation figure. So how do you get to $2.3 million? “Assuming a starting account value of $50,000 and an 8 percent return on assets, an investor would need to deposit $13,500 at the beginning of each year over the next 30 years to achieve that result,” says Andrew Gluck, managing director of wealth management at GCG Financial.