Women, we may need our own financial planners and retirement advice separate from the men in our lives, even if we're married.

That's the upshot of new research from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, where researchers found that women from the later baby-boom era are spending fewer years married.

Traditionally, women spent their adult lives married, so it made more sense to study households rather than women separately.

Women in America aren't married as long as they were in prior generations, which calls for separate financial planning, according to a new study.
Center for Retirement Research
Women in America aren't married as long as they were in prior generations, which calls for separate financial planning, according to a new study.

But the new study looked at four birth cohorts, ranging from the Depression era to mid-baby boom, and found that no matter the age span, the percentage of years women spend married has dropped from about 70 percent to about 50 percent. Fewer women get married, and when they do marry, they get married later, the study found. Also, more couples end up divorced. (The study did not account for same-sex marriage.)

So looking at women's finances separately from those of men is increasingly a necessary part of retirement security, the center's study noted.

Why wouldn't women want their own financial plans? After all, women are far more likely than men to face financial hardship in retirement. A 2016 report by the National Institute on Retirement Security found that across all age groups, women have substantially less income in retirement than men.

For women age 65 and older, the NIRS data found, typical income is 25 percent lower than it is for men. As men and women age, men's income advantage widens to 44 percent by age 80 and older. Consequently, women are 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and older, while women age 75 to 79 were three times more likely to fall below the poverty level when compared to their male counterparts.

"It is well-documented that the nation faces a retirement savings crisis, but the pain is particularly severe for women because we need a bigger retirement nest egg than men thanks to our longer life expectancy," explained Diane Oakley, NIRS executive director and report co-author. Their data show that "a woman's nest egg is substantially smaller than a man's and that we're not making real headway toward closing the retirement gender gap."

And even wealthy investors worry about getting sick in retirement, according to the most recent UBS Investor Watch: Nearly three-quarters do. Moreover, 88 percent say they are prepared for retirement, but less than half feel secure about their health and long-term-care planning.

"Whether you are just entering the workforce or getting closer to retirement, it's up to every woman to ensure she has a secure financial future," advised Cynthia Tidwell, president and CEO of Royal Neighbors of America, one of the nation's largest women-led life insurers.

"Because many women, over our lifetimes, tend to go in and out of the workforce to care for family or may even earn less overall, we are more likely to be poorer as we age — essentially living longer on smaller incomes," Tidwell said.

How can local women plan financially for themselves?

• If you don't have auto-enrollment at work, consider enrolling in a savings plan through a brokerage firm or low-cost investment firm such as Vanguard.

• Enroll in an investing class at a local college or join an investment club. For instance, BetterInvesting offers classes in a broad range of subjects, including basic investing topics. One local chapter, the Philadelphia Area Model Investment Club, meets the second Saturday of each month and welcomes visitors at no cost. Meetings take place at the Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library, 1001 Powell St., Norristown, Pa. 19401. To learn more, call club contact Gloria Mankonen at 215-796-1214.

• Join the South Jersey BetterInvesting chapter for an "Investor Education Day." The event is scheduled Saturday, Oct. 21, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Cherry Hill Public Library, 1100 Kings Highway North, Cherry Hill, N.J. 08034. The cost is $35. For information, contact Agnes Eng at 609-969-0619 or Treasurer@SJersey.betterinvesting.net , or Carla Krasnick at President@SJersey.betterinvesting.net.

• Consider a four-week course, "Retirement Income Solutions for Women," for those 45 or older who are concerned they won't have enough money for retirement. The series was put together by the Women's Opportunities Resource Center and the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Participants 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 at worc-pa.com or by calling 215-564-5500.