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Retirement Myths for Women

The number of men and women in the United States appears to be approximately equal . . . at first glance. Women walk a different path than men, and a much longer one. After the age of 40, women outnumber men in every age cohort. At age 65, there are twice as many women as men.1 Given varied roles throughout their lifetime and a changing career path, women need to take charge of their own retirement planning. Here are three myths women face, and the retirement planning realities.


Now that the kids have moved out and your spouse has closed the chapter of his professional career, you’re ready to rediscover your relationship. Without the duties and responsibilities of work and raising a family, you’ll enjoy spending more time together.

In reality, many spouses struggle with rekindling their relationship once they begin retirement. It’s a balancing act that requires a shared commitment to defining your new lifestyle . . . and a lot of patience. If you were a full-time homemaker, you may find your newly retired spouse is constantly underfoot.  The proverbial “Honey-Do List” (as in, Honey, do the laundry) may actually become Honey, do something on your own.  It’s just as likely for retirement lifestyles to take couples in completely different directions. If he prefers golf, but you prefer bridge, you may struggle to synchronize schedules and grow shared interests.

If you maintained a full-time career alongside your spouse, there’s a chance you may resent him if he begins retirement earlier than you do. (I’ve been working all day. Couldn’t you at least make dinner?)

Communication and planning are the keys to overcoming relationship challenges throughout retirement. Many retirement professionals share a popular adage: Most people put more time into planning a two-week vacation than they do planning for retirement.  Your retirement planning should extend beyond financial matters to include your relationships, too.


Even if you earned your own retirement benefits, it’s critical to understand what resources and assets are available to you as the beneficiary of your spouse’s retirement and pension plans. Women on average earn approximately $0.82 for every $1 earned by men,2 which generates a significant lifetime income gap – and less potential savings. Moreover, according to the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (Wiserwomen.org), female retirees tend to receive only half of the average pension benefits that men receive. Women are already at a savings disadvantage, and if you never worked, you may be even more dependent upon your spouse’s retirement plans.

The assumption that your benefits as a widowed beneficiary will be the same as when your spouse was living is too risky. If your spouse passes away, many pensions may only pay half of the original benefit. Many retirement programs, even those administered by the Department of Defense (the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan (RC-SBP) and Retired Serviceman’s Family Protection Plan (RSFPP)) require special enrollment for spouses and beneficiaries if you expect to receive benefits after the primary policy holder’s passing. It’s essential to review your spouse’s policies carefully and to account for missing income gaps.


Women live longer than men, thus the chances of them outliving their savings are much higher, too. The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 Data Book reports the average life expectancy is 77.3 years for men and 82.0 years for women. According to the U.S Census Bureau, women who reach age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 89.4.3 Retirement planning needs to take on a longer time horizon than twenty years. Depending on your age of retirement, you may spend thirty years or more in this phase of your life.

Longer life expectancy creates different needs throughout retirement too. Adequate coverage for long term care is a major concern for women. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, on average, women need long term care longer than men – 3.7 years versus 2.2 years. Services are used for an average of 3 years, and twenty percent of people will need care for 5 years or longer. Medicare will not pay for Activities of Daily Living (ADL), which make up the largest portion of long-term care services. Also, according to the Administration on Aging, almost half of older women age 75+ live alone.4

Women can build a strategic retirement plan by putting the myths aside and planning for financial and emotional realities. A balanced plan provides security independent of your spouse.

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2021-117891 Exp. 3/23

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