Women are often faced with difficult, life-altering events – caring for an aging loved one, the loss of a spouse or partner, separation, divorce – and their accompanying financial issues.

While women face a unique set of circumstances when it comes to retirement planning, being more aware of these challenges is the first step to helping to overcome them. At Schwab, we generally highlight four key considerations to help women prepare and be confident in their financial future:

1. Women may have a lengthier retirement. Women tend to outlive men by an average of five years, according to the National Center for Health in 2017. Though a longer retirement means more time to travel the world and spoil grandchildren, it also means many women will have to save more money to last them through their longer lifespans.

Tip: Stocks are an important part of most portfolios, even during retirement. Consider maintaining a portion of your savings in stock investments to help counteract the impact of inflation. The ultimate goal is to try to have continued growth overall while not risking the money you need to live on.

2. Women may have a more expensive retirement. Not only do women have to plan for more years in retirement, but they often have to anticipate higher expenses. Longer life expectancies can translate into increased medical expenses and a higher likelihood of entering a nursing home or assisted living community, which can be quite costly.

Tip: Consider exploring supplemental insurance, as Medicare benefits only cover some medical costs during retirement.

3. Women have to save more to make up for earnings loss. In 2018, women still earned only 82 cents for every dollar men earned, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Plus, over the course of their working years, women spend more time out of the workforce to care for their families, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute. To counteract the forces that are weighing on their ability to accumulate savings, women can focus on saving as much as possible during the years they are working and earning an income.

Tip: Your level of savings is the biggest factor in determining whether you will meet your retirement financial goals, so start early. Try to max out your 401(k) contributions, or at least contribute enough to get the full employer match if there is one. Review your expenses periodically to look for ways to save more and avoid carrying a balance on your credit card to limit costly interest payments.

4. Women may receive less in Social Security benefits. Lower salaries and fewer years in the workplace also put women at a disadvantage when it comes to Social Security benefits. In fact, women earned on average about 20% less in Social Security than men in 2015, according to the Social Security Administration.

Tip: Consider delaying the start of your Social Security benefits. If you choose to start cashing in your Social Security checks before your normal retirement age, your benefits are reduced. If you wait to some point between your normal retirement age and the age of 70, you’ll receive a higher monthly benefit. Use Social Security Administration’s calculators to determine when you would break even and begin to come out ahead if you delay Social Security.

Women are often faced with difficult, life-altering events – caring for an aging loved one, the loss of a spouse or partner, separation, divorce – and their accompanying financial issues. Assisting women investors during both difficult and joyous times is my passion, as I’ve been through several of these crossroads myself. My goal is to educate and collaborate with clients and help them feel confident about their life choices and financial future.

About the columnist

Stephanie P. Brown, MBA, is an Independent Financial Consultant at the Charles Schwab Independent branch located in Rehoboth Beach. She has more than 15 years of experience helping clients achieve their financial goals. She can be reached at: Stephanie.brown@schwab.com or 302-260-8731.

Stephanie is life-long Sussex County resident and enjoys spending time with her two children and extended family.

Information presented is for general informational purposes only and is not intended as personalized investment advice as individual situations vary. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, Schwab recommends consultation with a qualified professional. Investing involves risk including the potential loss of principal.