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Your Health
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Karen Telleen-Lawton: A Portrait of Retirement for the Female Baby Boomer

Women should have it made in retirement: they receive over 70 percent of the inherited wealth in the U.S.

But this fact also impacts older women: the median income of women over age 65 is less than 56 percent of that of men, according to a 2014 figure by the Administration on Aging.

Women receive only half the pension benefits that men do, making for a risky retirement for most women.

Baby boomer women are so focused on making ends meet and paying off consumer debt that saving for retirement is not a present priority. This is the situation according to findings released in October.

“There is a striking disconnect among women between how they envision their retirement and how they are preparing to realize that vision,” says Catherine Collinson, President of the private non-profit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. “Women face a number of unique circumstances, such as typically lower wages than men, time out of the workforce to be a parent or caregiver and a longer life expectancy, which present challenges for saving.”

If you see yourself or a friend in the figures above, it’s time to make some changes. The world baby boomer women face is profoundly different from the one in which we grew up, and what you don’t know can hurt you.

We as women need to nurture their health, their savings and their relevance in their careers. We need to take full advantage of retirement plans and be prepared on the downside with insurance and emergency savings.

How do you learn about financing and protecting your retirement? Here are some questions to get you started. If you are married, understand your spouse’s answers to these as well:

» Are you fully participating in any company pensions and retirement plans?

» How is each company benefit integrated with Social Security and Medicare?

» Do you know their value now and expected value at retirement?

» Do you understand which benefits will continue after one spouse’s death or disability?

» Are your investments diversified?

» Who is the beneficiary on each account?

» How will you withdraw money from retirement accounts?

» When you retire, will you keep retirement accounts where they are or roll them into an IRA?

» Do you have insurance appropriate for protecting your assets and health?

» Do you have a written retirement plan? (Only 14 percent of baby boomer women do.)  

It’s never too late to improve your financial situation, and if you’re not happy with where the path is leading, it’s not too late to update your skills.

Perhaps now that fill in the blank (the kids are grown, your parents are gone, whatever) you can launch that career you always wanted.

It’s much harder to get back into the work force than to stay in, so make sure you’re ready before you take down your shingle.

I’ve saved some good news for the end. You may not be in the lucky line for an inheritance, but you’re doing the next best thing. Perhaps the better thing.  

A recent study by ADP Research Institute found that women are more likely to save than men, and they’re saving a higher percentage of wages. If you see yourself in this figure, you go girl!

— Karen Telleen-Lawton’s column is a mélange of observations spanning sustainability from the environment to finance, economics and justice issues. She is a fee-only financial advisor (www.DecisivePath.com) and a freelance writer (www.CanyonVoices.com). Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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