KANSAS CITY, Mo. — More women than men outlive their savings, partly because they tend to live longer. But women's work histories also set the stage for financially pinched retirement years.
U.S. women work fewer years than men, and they're more likely to work in part-time or lower-paying jobs. Many women, therefore, build up fewer Social Security credits for retirement benefits.
And, because women are more likely to cycle in and out of the labor force for family caregiving reasons, they're less likely to accumulate sizable employer-sponsored pensions.
Financial advisers emphasize that Social Security alone won't be enough to maintain one's preretirement standard of living — which means that women, like men, need to build personal retirement savings, starting as early in their work lives as they can.
That's not easy advice to follow, especially for single heads of households in lower-paying jobs who need all their income to pay bills. But, financial advisers say, you can't afford not to.
Here are the stories of women from several walks of life who have heard that warning:
An entrepreneurial drive to build a business and take responsibility for herself propels Marti Miller, a career coach and fashion consultant. Miller, now in her 60s, retired from a job with Exxon Mobil in 1992, then went to work for an outplacement company. Next, she started two consulting businesses. "I also think I represent the baby boomer generation who will reinvent themselves and find meaningful activities following their 'formal' retirement," she says. "We will not necessarily follow our parents' example of 'leisure' retirement."
Pay yourself first
When Sharon Holmes, 32, moved to a new job last year, she put the amount of her raise into her employer's profit sharing plan. In one year, by investing the added income from her promotion and a 5 percent raise, Holmes has put several thousand dollars toward retirement. "Instead of pocketing it, I said I'm going to ignore the fact that I got this extra money. I didn't have to give up anything because I never saw it.," Holmes said. "I've been at the place of not having anything at all. Gradually, I've become more financially sound and learned to make better decisions."
Live off the interest
Trish Tataryn started saving for retirement in her mid 20s. In her mid 30s, she became what she calls a "disciplined" saver. Now 43, she puts money into a Simple IRA, a savings instrument available to business owners, and a Roth IRA. The owner of a lab that makes appliances for orthodontists, Tataryn last year put $16,700 into those two accounts. Her goal is to retire by age 55. "I'm hoping to live off the interest . . . and anything we get from Social Security would be a bonus," she said. To get to that point, Tataryn plans to live frugally and stay out of debt.