While couples tend to work on their retirement plans together, it’s a good idea to stress-test the plan by imagining that the wife might outlive the husband. What would her retirement income alone look like?1
If her husband passes away, she’ll be down to just one Social Security benefit. Also, if she earned less during her career, there’s a good chance that her personal retirement savings balance will be lower; men’s retirement account balances average more than 50 percent higher than women’s.2
Since women are more likely to outlive their husbands, this means she may not have a caretaker if/when she starts having health or mobility problems. As she ages, she’s likely to spend more time with a chronic disability. Without a spouse, she may need to pay for assistive care or enter a nursing home, leading to higher costs.3
Women also tend to have higher nursing home expenses than men. On average, women who live the longest pay about 44 percent more in out-of-pocket nursing home expenses than men (cumulatively $75,310 vs. $52,365).4
Despite these realities, two-thirds of married men and women say they are confident they will have sufficient funds to live comfortably throughout their retirement years. Unfortunately, that confidence may be unwarranted if they haven’t considered the increased assets necessary to last one partner’s lifetime.5
By contrast, only 47 percent of single women and 54 percent of single men share this same confidence. However, it’s worth noting that both of these demographics may be approaching retirement planning with the expectation that they will be alone. Not only will they be planning for enough assets for one, but they may also recognize that they will not have a spouse to serve as a caregiver – and include a plan for the potential extra expense.6
If you have any questions or concerns about the “what ifs” in your retirement plan, set up an appointment with our office and we’ll be happy to visit with you.
1 Employee Benefits Research Institute. March 16, 2018. “Women’s History Month: A Time to Reflect on Women’s Retirement Challenges.” https://ebriorg.wordpress.com/2018/03/16/womens-history-month-a-time-to-reflect-on-womens-retirement-challenges/. Accessed Nov. 16, 2018.