skip to main content

Mind the Gap: Saving for a Longer Life

By Marcia Lerner

  • PUBLISHED October 15
  • |
  • 5 MINUTE READ

None of us knows how long we’re going to live, but statistics can give us a clue. In the United States, women born in 2015 have a life expectancy of 81.2 years, versus 76.3 for men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So if you’re a woman, when it comes to saving for your future, one thing is likely: You’re saving for a longer life. 
 
Knowing your life expectancy can help you get a sense of how many years you might be retired. But even armed with that knowledge, only 46% of working women participate in a retirement plan. That might be one reason women tend to fear retirement more than men do, with 55% of women expressing concern about outliving their savings and investments, and only 12% of women saying they are very confident in their ability to retire completely with a comfortable lifestyle.
 
So what can you do?
There are steps you can take to prepare for taking care of yourself throughout what could be a long and happy retirement. Start by considering the following.
 
●    Estimate your life expectancy
While your family history can be helpful, so can objective data. Try an online calculator to get an estimate of your life expectancy, like the one offered by the Social Security Administration.

●    Consider working longer
Working longer might be a more effective financial strategy than saving, according to a 2018 research paper. Of course, delaying retirement is not always an option. Health or caregiving issues may prevent women from delaying retirement, so while this is a good option to consider, it should not be your only strategy.

●    Prioritize saving
Women often face competing demands for their money, including mortgage payments and other debts. As a result, retirement savings can fall down the list of priorities. 

“Before you spend a single dollar on your day-to-day living expenses, the question is how much of your paycheck can you—or more importantly will you—leave untouched,” says Joanna Nowak, a wealth advisor with MoneyWise Financial Planners in San Francisco,. “And that has to be paid, no matter what else is going on with your life.” Sticking to a savings plan for retirement is one the best ways of alleviating worry in the moment, and taking care of yourself down the line.

●    Consider long-term care insurance
One of the concerns that comes with a longer lifespan is needing more care at the end of your life. “Long-term care has particular relevance to women,” says Nowak. 

According to the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, 80% of men die married, so they have a spouse to take care of them. But with their longer life spans, 80% of women die single. “The cost and the issue of long-term care falls squarely into women’s laps,” says Nowak. To prepare yourself, consider purchasing long-term care insurance, which can defray the costs of a long, debilitating illness. While expensive, plans are cheaper if you purchase it when you’re young.
 
This is good news
A longer lifespan means more time to spend with loved ones, to connect, grow and explore. As long as you prepare, save and plan for the possibilities, there’s a lot to look forward to.

This chart is in the category "Planning Longer" and is titled "Life Expectancy by the Numbers." The description reads, "For both men and women who are already 65, the likelihood is that they will live even longer, which means more years to plan for." There are two categories in the chart. They are life expectancy at age 65 and life expectancy at age 75. At age 65, for those born in 1950, men can expect to live until 77.8 and women can expect to live until 80. For those born in 1990, men can expect to live until 80.1 and women until 83.9. For those born in 2015, men can expect to live until 83 and women until 85.6. For life expectancy at age 75, for those born in 1990, men can expect to live until 84.4 and women can expect to live until 87. For those born in 2015, men can expect to live until 86.2 and women until 88.

Marcia Lerner lives in Brooklyn, New York, and writes on finance, health care and children's literature. Her articles and reviews have appeared in the New York Times and Proto magazine as well as many financial websites and magazines.

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now

×