By Donna M. Phelan, MBA
Although it is improving, there is an economic cost to being a woman that reverberates into retirement. It results from multiple long-term socio-economic conditions.
The first is that women have consistently earned less than men, and real wages have stagnated. Currently women earn about one-fourth less than men. The disparities are even greater for black women, who earn about 30 percent less and Hispanic women, who earn about 40 percent less (census.gov). The Center for American Progress calculates that over a forty-year career life, that difference may add up to $300,000 for lower earners, $431,000 for average earners and $723,000 for higher earners.
Women are also less likely than men to start their careers in, or get promoted to management positions. A March 2010 Catalyst article in the Harvard Business Review reports that “women continue to lag men at every single career stage, right from their first professional jobs.” Women comprise only 5 percent of CEOs of the Fortune 500 companies. A 2014 Grant Thornton International Business Report survey, featured in the March 6, 2014 issue of Forbes, found that the number of women in senior management has “stagnated” at 24 percent since 2007. This means that most women miss out on the majority of lucrative executive benefits that may help secure their retirement.
An August 14, 2013 article in the Wall Street Journal, quoted an Aon Hewitt study, which said that the 401(k) gender gap is even bigger than the gender pay gap. The study showed that the average man’s 401(k) savings was $100,000 dollars. The average woman’s 401(k) retirement saving’s was $59,300 dollars– a full 40 percent less.
Women are more likely to leave the workforce for childcare and eldercare. This redirects their resources of time, money and energy away from retirement saving. It also hinders career progress. Studies by Claudia Goldin of Harvard show that when women reenter the workforce, they permanently lag behind in pay and promotions.
Women who leave the workforce for caregiving also incur consequences for Social Security. Women receive about one-fourth less than men in Social Security benefits, $13,236 versus $17,004. Nearly 30 percent of women over age 65 rely on Social Security for virtually all of their income, a rate that increases with age. The percent of women older than 65 living below the poverty level of $11,670 was 11 percent versus 6.6 percent for men, and 18.9 percent versus 11.9 percent for those living alone. Women who turn on Social Security early for financial reasons permanently lock in a lower lifetime benefit in what may be their only pension.
Women also tend to work in industries that don’t offer retirement plans, so they miss the opportunity for wealth building through an employer match. With women’s average income hovering around $38,345, it is difficult to see how women would have any discretionary income left over for retirement saving.
Marital status is also a factor. Married women fare best, divorced and widowed women next best. Never-married single women incur the most cautious outlook for retirement.
The longevity gap between men and women is narrowing, but women still outlive men, and end up living out their later years alone. Greater longevity is accompanied by larger risk of diminished purchasing power due to inflation.
The many socioeconomic issues facing women and retirement raise concern. What if the old method of trying to save enough for retirement doesn’t work for women?
New strategies are needed if women are going to thrive in retirement. Women should consider working longer in their careers, and part-time in retirement. Women should also consider non-traditional residence sharing – renting out empty bedrooms, getting a roommate, and downsizing. With the savings from reduced housing expenses, women could make financial investments in income-producing vehicles. Women could also turn their hobbies – for which they already have the skills, tools and materials – into profitable home-based businesses.
Women need to understand the role they play in their own retirement and take responsibility. They need to become financially literate and realize they will need income for life. Women need to create stackable income streams to empower their retirement security and meet their monthly spending needs.
Women should also start talking to other women about retirement planning. What are their friends doing to prepare for retirement? What if they got together once a month over coffee to start a conversation about women and retirement? They might discover that they have ideas, talents and resources to share with other women, which might enhance the retirement planning experience and success of a larger scope of women.
About the author
Donna M. Phelan spent more than 18 years at some of Wall Street’s largest and most prestigious investment firms. She holds an MBA in finance from the University of Connecticut, and provides personal financial advice to clients coast to coast. The author of Women, Money & Prosperity: A Sister’s Perspective On How To Retire Well, she has lectured at conferences nationwide on a broad range of financial topics and has published numerous articles on investments, retirement and financial planning. Phelan was formerly president of the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) Connecticut state chapter and was active in the Financial Women’s Association (FWA) in New York.
We’re paying a hefty price on our health for the conventional wisdom we hold to be true – especially women and their children – says Robert Thompson, M.D., an OB/GYN and integrative medicine specialist deemed by his peers to be in the top 5 percent of U.S. physicians.
The conventional wisdom, more accurately described as ignorance, is that we need an abundance of prescription drugs and vitamin supplements, including calcium, to have strong bones and overall good health.
“Bones are composed of at least a dozen minerals and we need all of them in perfect proportions in order to have healthy bones and healthy bodies; osteoporosis is caused by a loss of minerals from the bones, not just calcium, and we cannot possibly replace minerals with calcium alone, which hardens concrete!” says Thompson, author of “The Calcium Lie II: What Your Doctor Still Doesn’t Know: How Mineral Imbalances Are Damaging Your Health,” (calciumliebook.com), a new book, coauthored by health journalist Kathleen Barnes, that details the roles minerals play in overall health and how to identify and correct deficiencies and imbalances.
Too much calcium, through food sources or by taking supplements, set individuals up for an array of negative health consequences, including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, Type 2 hypothyroidism, hypertension, depression, problem pregnancies, dementia, heart disease, kidney stones, gallstones and more.
Mineral deficiencies are responsible for a host of health problems, and trying to compensate with flavor-of-the-month drugs or vitamins compounds the problem. Thompson reviews how this affects women, children and women who are experiencing menopause, and what they can do about it.
• The mineral cost of pregnancy … Women become very vigilant, and sometimes hyper-vigilant, about their health during pregnancy, because they know it affects their babies. Depending on a woman’s beliefs about health, this could lead her on one of several directions. The bottom line is that pregnant women lose about 10 percent of their total mineral supply to their babies, which means the average woman loses nearly four pounds of minerals to her baby with each pregnancy.
• Embrace the farmer way. Skilled and experienced farmers know that unrefined sea salt is essential to the health of his animals. For more than 50 years, farmers have known that sea salt, or rock salt, is essential for their stock to remain healthy and to breed without birth defects. This data refers to farm mammals; since we’re mammals and all mammals have similar physiology, minerals gained from unrefined salt, which is the best source of sodium and ionic minerals, has similar health benefits for pregnant women and their children.
• The problems women experience with menopause. It’s estimated that up to 40 percent of perimenopausal (nearly menopausal) women have low thyroid function that adds to their symptoms when their hormones begin to fluctuate, “but I believe this is far too conservative of a figure,” Thompson says. “More realistically, it’s near 90 percent or more, and hypothyroidism is probably near 95 percent, especially if a woman is more than 20 percent above her ideal body weight. Excessive calcium contributes to this and other menopausal problems.”
• Consider bioidentical hormones for treatment. There is overwhelming biological evidence that bioidentical hormone replacement is not only natural and safe, but it also improves the quality of life and reduces breast cancer incidence, heart disease, stroke, dementia, osteoporosis, high cholesterol and nearly all known chronic illness associated with aging. Balanced physiologic transmucosal bioidentical hormone replacement is the specific method to consider.
*Robert Thompson, M.D., was added to the peer-reviewed directory, “Best Doctors in America,” in 1996.
About Robert Thompson, M.D.
Dr. Robert Thompson is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist, and a nutrition specialist who helps patients get long-term relief from chronic disease, including obesity, diabetes, hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue. His newest book, “The Calcium Lie II,” is available for free at calciumliebook.com. Dr. Thompson received his medical training at the University of Kentucky and has been a leader in medical advances for more than 30 years.
Financial strategist Donna M. Phelan, author of “Women, Money and Prosperity: A Sister’s Perspective on How to Retire Well,” (www.donnamphelan.com) relates the story of Wanda Strong – one of four sisters – one married, one widowed, one divorced and one who never married.
Finding herself suddenly single with two kids to support and less than 15 years to retirement, Wanda had to make a choice: she could either succumb to the numbing fear about her financial future, or she could embrace new strategies for prosperity. She chose the latter.
“Many women feel an unspoken fear about money and retirement because they sense they are not prepared and don’t know what to do about it,” says Phelan. “What’s worse – they don’t talk about it!”
Women may indeed be behind, due to a lifetime of lower earnings, leaving the workforce for childcare and eldercare, working in jobs that don’t offer retirement plans, and their own longevity, according to the US Census and Social Security Administration.
Phelan provides “ahs” – awareness, hope and strategies: awareness of women’s own financial situation, hope that it’s never too late (or too early) to start planning, and real life strategies that are easy and practical for women of any age or current financial situation.
1. Create Stackable Income Streams to Empower Retirement Security (SISTERS).
Women need to stack several income streams to cover their retirement spending needs because one, such as Social Security, may not be enough. And others, such as alimony, child support or a primary earner’s income, may disappear.
2. Get as inspired to learn about money as you are about your new smartphone!
“Women often say that they can’t understand money concepts because they are too complex to learn,” Phelan says. “But they want to learn about their smartphone — by far, a much more complex, highly advanced piece of technology that is constantly changing –- because they want to stay in touch with their kids.”
“But think of the similarities between your smartphone and money:
• Both have their own language.
• Both give you tremendous options for freedom.
• Both have a broad range of applications.
• Both take time and willingness to learn.
• Both can, at times, feel frustrating and overwhelming.
• Both are within your intelligence and offer great potential rewards for mastering them.
• Only one requires that you ask the advice of someone embarrassingly younger than you how to use it!”
3. Join the conversation, start a SISTERS Club.
Wanda calls her three sisters and a few friends together to brainstorm new retirement strategies for stackable income streams.
• Meet with a financial advisor and develop a written plan.
• Learn how to create income from investments.
• Embrace non-traditional living arrangements, such as renting out empty bedrooms, or getting a roommate.
• Consider working a little longer, or part-time in retirement.
• Start a business.
• Pool their talents, ideas and resources.
A SISTERS Club, like a book club, is a safe environment where women can come together to share knowledge and experiences, generate ideas, and create investments and business ventures that will provide on-going retirement income. It is a community of women helping women, and helping themselves to improve their retirement planning success. So join the conversation!
About Donna M. Phelan
Donna M. Phelan has spent more than 18 years at some of Wall Street’s largest and most prestigious investment firms. She holds an MBA in finance from the University of Connecticut, and provides personal financial advice to clients coast to coast. The author of “Women, Money and Prosperity: A Sister’s Perspective on How to Retire Well,” (www.donnamphelan.com), she has lectured at conferences nationwide on a broad range of financial topics and has published numerous articles on investments, retirement and financial planning. Phelan was formerly president of the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) Connecticut state chapter and was active in the Financial Women’s Association (FWA) in New York.
Despite the many monumental glass ceilings that have been broken for the equal rights of all citizens in the United States, unique challenges persist for many, including, potentially, half the population, says Jennifer Carroll, the first female – and first black – elected lieutenant governor of Florida and a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander.
“Challenges from my childhood and military career have taught me many valuable lessons — when times get tough, get tougher; stay true to who you are and don’t compromise your principles; be willing to walk away from something that’s causing you clear harm,” says Carroll, (www.jennifercarroll.com), who recently released her autobiography, “When You Get There.”
“The perfect worker, wife and mother – these are ‘the big three’ roles that matter most to women, but you really want to make sure your children don’t get lost in this juggling. Your husband and your coworkers are adults; children, on the other hand, are vulnerable.”
Carroll has the following suggestions for women concerned about their role as Mom.
• Pay close attention to your children; listen. Seems obvious, right? As a little girl in Trinidad, Carroll was accosted by a man who persuaded her to accompany him to an outhouse. After he exposed himself to her, she managed to get away, but the experience haunted her while growing up.
“Listen to children when they have something to talk about,” she says. “They may feel too embarrassed to talk about something that happened to them; they may feel like it’s their fault. Be sensitive to their words and behavior, and be open to what they have to say.”
• Devote one day exclusively to family. While advancing her career in the Navy, Carroll often spent several months away from her family. Later in her career, including as Chairwoman of Space Florida and lieutenant governor, time was also a precious commodity, but she always made sure she had it for her three children, Nolan II, Nyckie and Necho. Since Nolan II has been a player in the NFL, Carroll attends games and make Sundays “Football Sunday” for everyone, including her husband of three decades, Nolan.
• Model the behavior you’d like to see emulated. Children have sensitive consistency detectors; they are quick to realize the disconnection between what parents say and what they do. There’s something to be said for people who are able to follow their own advice. Many don’t.
“Proactive efforts outside the home, like civic and humanitarian projects, are a great way of modeling behavior,” Carroll says. “My models as a child were my adoptive parents; I think adoption is one of the greatest loves you can provide and is a great model behavior.”
• Emphasize the importance of loyalty; family is a lifelong relationship. As important as a career may be, you will never forge bonds in a job that are as strong as those within a family. Children are hungry to know they are secure with love and loyalty, so don’t hesitate in reinforcing this message.
“When you have a secure family foundation, you can approach work with greater strength and confidence,” she says.
• Engage them! This is a two-fold effort: Make sure children are engaged in their studies and extracurricular activities, such as sports, study groups, a job or other productive behavior. And talk to them about what they’re doing and also what you’re doing.
“Conversation is an opportunity to connect with your children, to take advantage of teaching moments, and most of all, to enjoy your children!”
About Jennifer S. Carroll
Jennifer Carroll, author of “When You Get There” (www.jennifercarroll.com), is the former lieutenant governor of Florida and a retired decorated lieutenant commander/aviation maintenance for the U.S. Navy. She was a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 2003 to 2010 and was the executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. Currently, she is a Political Analyst for WJXT CHANNEL News4Jax Jacksonville, Florida, and Senior Adviser for Global Digital Solutions, Inc. (GDSI) in West Palm Beach, FL. Carroll holds an MBA, among other academic degrees. She and her husband, Nolan, have three children.