Retirement Planning and Its Challenges for Women

Women generally have longer life expectancies than men and tend to marry men several years older than themselves. Women also become, by default, the caregivers for their husbands before they no longer can physically or emotionally handle the job. Couples should focus on long-term care planning to protect the woman.

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Retirement Planning and Its Challenges for Women
5 Min Read March 21st, 2017 Updated:March 2nd, 2023

When you read or hear anything about retirement planning, the focus often falls on the woman. A woman's health is often better than a man's, and their longevity reflects that. Typically, women with a similar health profile will live two to four years longer than their husbands, even more with better overall health.

There are several reasons, in general, why women's health and longevity are better than men's. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Biological advantages -  Women have several natural advantages contributing to their health and longevity. For example, women have lower levels of testosterone, which is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Women also have two X chromosomes, which may provide additional genetic protection against certain diseases.

  2. Lower risk of heart disease - Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, but women tend to develop it later in life than men. This is partly due to the protective effect of estrogen, which can help keep blood vessels healthy and lower the risk of plaque buildup.

  3. Lower risk of certain cancers - Women have a lower risk of certain types of cancer, such as lung, bladder, and kidney. On the other hand, men have a higher risk of prostate cancer.

  4. Better immune system - Women tend to have more robust immune systems than men, which may help protect them against infectious diseases. Women also have a lower risk of autoimmune diseases, which occur when the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body.

It's important to note that these are general trends, and there are many individual variations in health and longevity between men and women. Factors such as genetics and lifestyle can influence longevity and health.

Financial Planning

Once women reach the age of 50, it is crucial to plan for a longer retirement and prepare for future long-term health care costs. Women at this age should beef up contributions to tax-advantaged retirement accounts, where applicable, to maximize long-term returns. Additionally, assessing risk tolerance and diversifying investments is critical, as this protects assets and mitigates potential losses.

These are steps women approaching age 50 should start taking to prepare for their retirement:

  • Assess current retirement savings - Women should assess their current retirement savings and calculate how much they need to save to comfortably retire. Be sure to estimate future Social Security benefits and consider other sources of income.

  • Increase retirement savings - Women should consider increasing their retirement savings by contributing more to their employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as 401(k)s or IRAs.

  • Pay off high-interest debt - High-interest debt, such as credit card debt, can significantly drain retirement savings. Women should prioritize paying off any high-interest debt.

  • Plan for long-term health care costs - Long-term health costs can be a significant expense in retirement, and these costs are rising rapidly. Long-Term Care Insurance will address the costs and burdens of aging and declining health.

  • Consider delaying retirement - Delaying retirement can increase Social Security benefits and provide more time to save for retirement.

  • Work with professionals - A financial planner can help women develop a retirement plan that considers their financial situation and goals. A Long-Term Care Insurance specialist can protect those assets with the right policy.

  • Live within means - Practice living within your means and avoid taking on unnecessary expenses that can prevent saving for retirement.

  • Stay informed about retirement options - Stay informed about retirement options, such as the benefits of continuing to work part-time in retirement or taking advantage of catch-up contributions for retirement savings plans.

  • Consider Longevity - Running out of money is the number one concern for most people when they retire. There is a good chance that a woman will outlive their spouse. Understanding how longevity is linked to retirement planning is essential.


On average, women live longer than men. According to the World Health Organization, the global life expectancy for women is 75 years, while it's 70 years for men. This may be partly because women are more likely to seek preventive care and engage in healthy behaviors.

Kenneth Walsh, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, says recent research shows that many men lose their male sex chromosome, the Y chromosome, as they age.

Particularly past age 60, men die more rapidly than women. It's as if they biologically age more quickly. There are more than 160 million males in the United States alone. The years of life lost due to the survival disadvantage of maleness is staggering.

The problem with longevity is that we will face a decline in our health, body, and mind at some point. One recent study showed that 30% of women's residual life expectancy at age 65 was spent in a state of chronic disability. Over half of all women will need some type of long-term health care before death, presenting a huge challenge for women planning for their future. 

There are several reasons women may have a higher risk for long-term care than men. In addition to life expectancy, these include:

  1. Women are more likely to experience chronic health conditions - Some chronic conditions, such as osteoporosis, arthritis, and Alzheimer's disease, are more common in women than men. These conditions often require long-term health care services and support.

  2. Women are more likely to be caregivers themselves - Women often take on the role of primary caregiver for their family members, including aging parents, spouses, and children with disabilities. This can result in physical and emotional stress that can increase their own risk for long-term care needs.

  3. Women are more likely to live alone in old age - Women are more likely than men to be widowed or divorced, and they may not have children or other family members to provide care and support. This can increase their risk for social isolation and health problems that require long-term care.

Chronic Health and Longevity

Sure, most people understand the need for retirement planning, but longevity planning includes the quality of that life and the costs and burdens of chronic health or aging problems. 

Most couples don't understand the impact of widowhood on a spouse. Men still need long-term health care and pass away before a woman. The financial implications of ignoring the problem can be devastating without proper planning.

Many American couples don't think about longevity, declining health, aging, and long-term health care until it becomes a crisis. The crisis falls on their adult children. The consequences are placed on everyone. 

How Will Long-Term Care Be Provided? How Will it Be Paid For?

How will care be provided and funded, and by whom? How will the financial impact affect the woman who is generally the second to need care? If no plan was put in place, how would the drain in assets affect the quality of life for the woman in the years ahead?

Sure, sometimes it goes the other way, and the woman needs care before the man. The lack of longevity planning is still financially and emotionally brutal on the family.

The financial impact of long-term health care can be substantial depending on where you live and the type of services you require.

LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator - Find Your Location

Women and Caregiving

Wives, by default, become caregivers first for their husbands. This arrangement usually only lasts briefly since caregiving is physically and emotionally demanding, especially for older people. Unless Long-Term Care Insurance is in place, adult children, most often a daughter or daughter-in-law, step in to be full-time or part-time caregivers. 

What Is Long-Term Care Insurance & What Does It Cover?

Family caregivers have to juggle careers and family responsibilities with being a caregiver. It doesn't work and often leads to health problems for the caregiver, not to mention relationship problems with their spouse and children. 

Declining Standard of Living for Women

Once a husband has passed away, the financial impact is usually even greater absent advance planning, which is really concerning. Eighty-five percent of women over age 85 are widows, compared to 45% of men. 

Being prepared for future declining health and the costs and burdens of longevity is vital to retirement planning - especially for women - 

Retirement Planning And Its Challenges For Women.

Can Long-Term Care Insurance Be Helpful?

The experts say to obtain Long-Term Care Insurance before you retire and make it part of an overall retirement plan. Most people purchase coverage in their 50s, some even in their 40s. While the early 50s isn't often when women (or men) anticipate their failing health, many couples haven't planned at all -- and their finances have plummeted as a result. 

You must have reasonably good health to obtain insurance coverage for long-term care. Waiting until you are in your 70s or beyond is not realistic, and even if you have good health, it will be more expensive. 

What Is Underwriting In Long-Term Care Insurance?

Plan Early - Don't Wait

Getting coverage at a younger age will mean lower premiums. Despite paying for years in premiums, you will pay less over your lifetime. You must, however, face the reality of life and how the consequences of aging impact families and finances. Since nobody can predict when they will face declining health, preparing makes common planning sense. 

Remember, certain health conditions make you uninsurable or more difficult and expensive to insure. Once you have a Long-Term Care Insurance policy in place, it gets locked in. The insurance company can never cancel a policy; premiums are intended to remain level. 

The consequences of aging and declining health can be a financial disaster, but it is more than just about money. Long-term health care costs are a cash flow issue but don't ignore the stress, anxiety, and burdens placed on your family. 

Real Consequences on Family and Finances 

If a family member must become a caregiver, the hardships are great for them and their family. These consequences are real and often life-altering for them. Long-Term Care Insurance gives you access to your choice of quality care options, including in-home care. You will safeguard your income and assets and allow your loved ones the time to be family instead of caregivers.

Shared spousal policies are popular as they offer very flexible benefits for a couple. Seek the help of an experienced Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you find the best coverage at the best value. A specialist will match your age, health, and family history with the right insurance company to find you the lowest-cost options. Premiums can vary over 100%, so be sure to work with a specialist representing the top companies. They will provide you with accurate quotes from the top insurance companies. 

Insurance companies must file their products and rates with each state, so no individual agent or advisor can offer special deals. But not only do premiums differ for the same coverage, but so do insurance company underwriting guidelines. Therefore, a specialist is best able to help you through this process. 

Long-Term Care Focus on Women

Women generally have longer life expediencies than men. Women also tend to marry men several years older than themselves, creating periods of widowhood of 15 years or longer that are not uncommon. Without proper planning, there is a decline in their standard of living. 

Don't ignore long-term care and longevity. Be focused on this at a younger age. Don't wait until you are in your 60s, do so when you are younger and healthier. You and your family will see the benefits.  

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About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

James Kelly

Contributor since August 21st, 2017

Editor's Note

You know what happens as you get older. Between chronic health problems, mobility issues, dementia, and just frailty, aging will lead to needing help with everyday living activities. 

As you age, there is an increased risk of falls, accidents, and injuries that can come with aging. Many older adults go into isolation to avoid some of these risks because they have no one watching out for them in their homes.

Quality long-term health care enables older adults to remain as independent as possible and maintain their dignity, autonomy, and connection to others. Indeed, that is what you want for yourself and your spouse as you age.

Plus, having quality care means you get emotional support which helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Without professional long-term health care, one of your adult children will often step in and become your caregiver. Family members are usually untrained and unprepared for being a caregiver. These challenges are burdensome on your adult children and their families. 

Some of these challenges include:

  • Difficulty in maintaining a job and family responsibilities with that of being a caregiver

  • Feelings of guilt or a lack of self-care for one's own needs

  • Feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caregiving 

  • Feeling financially stretched as they take more time off working and more time being a caregiver

  • Feeling emotionally drained from caregiving

  • Difficulty dealing with siblings as one person becomes responsible for your care

Long-Term Care Insurance will help you maintain control and independence. You will have tax-free funds to pay for your choice of quality care, including in-home care. Your loved ones will have the time to be family instead of caregivers.

Don't delay, as LTC Insurance is medically underwritten. 

How Does LTC Insurance Underwriting Impact Ability to Obtain Long-Term Care Insurance?

Premiums are based on several factors, including:

·        age

·        gender

·        health 

·        family history

·        selection of riders and options

·        amount of benefits within the policy

 How Much Does Long-Term Care Insurance Cost?

LTC Insurance Specialist Can Benefit You

A Long-Term Care Insurance specialist can be beneficial by providing the knowledge and experience necessary to help you select the best policy to meet your needs. 

Specialists can help to explain the different types of coverage, assess your needs based on your current health, financial resources, and family members, and evaluate potential policy options to determine the best fit for a consumer's budget and needs. 

These experts in long-term health care planning can also assist you in understanding the tax benefits of Long-Term Care Insurance and how it fits into retirement planning. You can save time and money by using a specialist's assistance to assess various policies' prospective costs and coverage. Premiums vary dramatically between insurance companies, as do their underwriting rules.

A qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist will match you with the best company to save you money. A specialist will put together accurate quotes from all the top companies based on your age, health, family history, and other factors.

Resources on LTC NEWS

LTC NEWS offers news, guidance, and resources to assist you in long-term health care planning. Additionally, LTC NEWS provides reviews of various Long-Term Care Insurance plans. 

Here are some of the resources that are available on LTC NEWS:

Parent’s Health Declining? Do They Need Care Now?

Get quality care for your parent or parents if they require it. LTC NEWS can assist. We've put together a few comprehensive guides to help you along the way.

Find help locating quality caregivers or long-term care facilities and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.

Make sure your loved one uses their Long-Term Care Insurance if they are fortunate enough to have it. Families sometimes postpone taking advantage of the benefits thinking family members can provide care, saving the benefits for later when it is deemed "more necessary."

Delaying the use of available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits is not a good idea. The policy provides you with access to quality care when someone needs it. It also gives loved one’s time to family instead of caregivers.

These four guides can be very helpful as you try to find appropriate long-term care services for a loved one:

Today's Reverse Mortgages Can Benefit Older Families

Some people have a large portion of their savings in their homes. With the help of reverse mortgages, you can find ways to pay for quality in-home care, pay for LTC Insurance, and even assist with cash flow during retirement.

Yes, today's reverse mortgages may be the perfect way to pay for a Long-Term Care Insurance policy or even cover the cost of in-home care if you or a loved one is currently in need.

Asking an expert with your questions will help you learn more. Mike Banner, a columnist for LTC NEWS and the host of the television program "62 Who Knew," will respond to your inquiries about long-term care, reverse mortgages, aging, and health.

- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.

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