The good news is that women's pay is on the rise. The gender pay gap may not have entirely closed, but women's incomes are rising. However, while women are gaining on men's earnings, they are still behind men in terms of financial planning. Research conducted by the bank HSBC highlighted that women are most at risk of falling short of income in retirement. Where women are actively undertaking financial planning, the focus is more on short-term financial issues such as building up short-term savings and managing the household budget. So, what should women be doing to ensure that they are on solid financial footing and that their futures will not see them short of cash? We'd suggest women save more, start saving earlier, stay involved in their financial planning and don't always play it safe.
SEE: Women And Finances: Is There A Gender Bias?
Statistically women live longer, so it is even more important that they have savings in place for the future. Because women tend to take time out of the workplace to have children and look after families, their Social Security benefits are often less than their male counterparts. This means that private saving is even more important. Women should aim to save in three ways: Social Security, a 401(k) pension or retirement saving plan, and personal savings.
It is never too early to start saving for your future. At whatever stage in your life you are at, you should start planning for your own financial security. In fact, this is where women lag behind men – they don't make a plan for the future. One of the key findings in the HSBC research was that while the majority of men had a clear financial plan to guide their financial decisions, just 44% of women said that they had a plan for the future.
Women should realize that their savings will build substantially over the years. If you could grow your savings at 10% each year, saving 10% of a $50,000 salary from your mid-20s would result in over $2 million at age 65 for retirement. Start saving today and see compound interest build that amount over the years.
Women may hand over their financial security and planning to their partners, but it is wiser to stay involved in the process to ensure a solid understanding. This is especially crucial in view of the fact that women tend to outlive their husbands and will become solely responsible for their own financial planning.
The Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement found that women are much more likely to be alone in old age, and elderly women are more likely to be poor. The percentage of the female population over age 85 who are widows is more than 85% compared to about 45% of men. At the present time, four out of 10 women over 65 depend on Social Security for virtually all of their income, which is a worrying situation that must be improved.
Don't Always Play It Safe
A big difference between men and women's finances is their attitude to risk. While only 25% of men consider themselves as 'risk averse' investors, nearly 40% of women shun higher-risk investments such as stocks.
Now, risk is not always good. Risking all of your savings is a dangerous and ill advised strategy. However, the no-risk options regularly have low interest rates. If the interest on your savings account doesn't beat the cost of inflation, then your investment is actually losing money. Striking a balance of risk-free and calculated-risk investing will mean that you get the best of both worlds and are able to reap the rewards of profitable investment.
SEE: What Is Your Risk Tolerance?
The Bottom Line
Encouragingly, there are positive signs appearing among younger women. Young women are more engaged in planning their financial future than women from older generations. One of the most important things women can do is take charge of their retirement immediately. They should find out as much as they can. How much will they need to live on? What sources of income are already available to them? They should talk to their spouse (if they have one), find out about current and past employers, and check on their Social Security benefit. Even if they are worried what the answers might be, it's better to find out now than waiting until they're ready to retire and discovering bad news then. Starting to plan early gives you options later in life. Retirement is meant to be about reaping the rewards of a lifetime's work – so make sure a plan is in place to make it just that.