Saving for retirement is a special issue for women

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Women earn less and live longer. That's why they need to pay special attention to saving for retirement.

But how?

Locally, there are some answers.

Retirement Income Solutions for Women is a four-week course for those 45 or older who are concerned they won't have enough money for retirement.

Cost for the series is $60, which includes four classes, an individual consultation with an accountant, and six monthly phone-coaching sessions. Classes take place on four Wednesdays, Sept. 7, 14, 21, and 28, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Gershman Y, 401 S. Broad St.

The series was put together by the Women's Opportunities Resource Center and the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Women in the classes discuss transitioning from work to retirement, and identify retirement income gaps and how to supplement income through employment, plus maximizing Social Security and Medicare.

To sign up, contact WORC either via worc-pa.com or by calling 215-564-5500.

Because of wage gaps and caregiving responsibilities, women enter and exit the workforce more frequently than men, and thus start retirement with an average of 26 percent less wealth, according to "Shortchanged in Retirement," a 2016 analysis issued by the National Institute on Retirement Security.

As a result, women are 80 percent more likely than men to live in poverty once they reach retirement.

Women "want to be financially secure when they retire. But it's hard to get good financial advice if you don't have more money," said Lynne Cutler, who heads WORC.

It's keenly important for women approaching retirement to understand investments and benefit programs such as Social Security.

Classes "fill a big gap for many women who spend their lives earning lower wages than men and bearing the primary responsibility of family caregiver," said Rochelle Massarella, WORC's program coordinator for the Retirement Income Solutions Program. "This empowers women to figure out the details of their financial situation and confidently move forward into retirement."

One local woman was able to project how much she needs to save now to retire at age 64 and live comfortably.

Another learned that she can't retire at 66; she'll have to wait until she is 70 and work part time until then.

A third woman found a receptionist job at age 80 to supplement her retirement income.

Clarifi, a nonprofit credit and personal-finance counseling agency in Center City with branches elsewhere in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey, plans a seminar on preparing for retirement from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Sept. 14 at the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, 200 S. Broad St.

Clarifi also offers a seminar called "Navigating Social Security," primarily for those planning to retire within 10 years. You can learn the basics of the system - how it works, eligibility requirements, and strategies for getting the most out of it.

Contact Clarifi directly to sign up for the classes, either at www.clarifi.org or by calling 215-563-5665.

Need more evidence that women face challenges in planning for retirement?

The Financial Services Roundtable issued a white paper this year noting the discrepancy between savings for men, women, and minorities.

The report found that a woman turning 65 today can expect to live to 87, compared with 84 for men, and that women must better insulate themselves against the gender wage gap and interruptions to employment.

Other research bears out the need for retirement-age Americans to stay on the job, particularly women. Almost 20 percent of Americans 65 and older are now working, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's the most since the early 1960s.

When asked to describe their plans for retirement, 27 percent of Americans said they will "keep working as long as possible," a 2015 Federal Reserve study found. An additional 12 percent have no plans to retire.

Three in five retirees surveyed by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies said making money or earning benefits was at least one reason they had retired later than planned.

Why? The 2008 financial crisis decimated many baby boomers' retirement savings.

Today, 60 percent of U.S. households have no money in a 401(k) or other retirement account, a recent report by the Government Accountability Office found.

earvedlund@phillynews.com

215-854-2808@erinarvedlund


By the Numbers

Only 12 percent of women are "very confident" in their ability to fully retire with

a comfortable lifestyle.

56 percent plan to retire after age 65 or not at all. Half (51 percent) plan to work after they retire.

46 percent expect their primary source

of retirement income will be 401(k)s and/or other savings and investments; 29 percent expect to rely on Social Security.

67 percent who take time out of the workforce to be a caregiver believe it hurt their ability to save for retirement.

76 percent who are offered an employee-funded plan participate, but contribute only 7 percent (median) of their salary.

53 percent are saving for retirement outside of work in an IRA, mutual fund,

bank account, etc.

62 percent who estimated their retirement savings needs say they "guessed."

36 percent use a professional financial adviser; most (75 percent) do so for retirement investment recommendations.

SOURCE: 16th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey

of American Workers, March 2016.