Retirement insights from a Colorado PERA perspective

Issues & Perspectives

Women face unique challenges in retirement

women retirement
Science Teacher Standing At Whiteboard With Digital Tablet Smiling To Camera

A public service career addresses many of them

A growing amount of research reveals that women approach
retirement planning differently than men, and International Women’s Day
on March 8 marks a good opportunity to consider both the risks in retirement
that women disproportionately shoulder and ways that they can be prepared.

According to a 2018 report from Transamerica Center for
Retirement Studies, 55
percent of women
fear outliving their retirement savings, compared
to 49 percent of men, and women are growing more concerned: A survey from
the Nationwide Retirement Institute revealed
that in 2017, 31
percent of women anticipated that their post-work life would be better than
their pre-retirement life but that dropped to 26 percent last year.

These fears are well founded. Women live longer than men, to
the point that there are 5.7
million more
American women than men at age 65, and 67 percent of
the over-age-85 population is female. These and other
, including lower average income and shorter average careers,
contribute to an increased risk for women of falling into poverty as they age.

Despite this seemingly grim information, there also are
signs of hope for women who are in, or nearing, retirement. In the 2018
election, a
record number of women
were elected to Congress. According to Nancy
Altman, president of Social Security Works and chair of the Strengthen Social
Security coalition, this diversity in elected representatives is seen as a
driving force behind
upcoming hearings and potential legislation
designed to strengthen retirement security and address health care programs and

Not only that, when women save and invest their money, they
tend to outperform men by an average of 40 basis points. They prepare
than men for unexpected events and more closely track their
daily expenses. They’re more
to seeking the counsel of a financial adviser. (For
more about the issues women face
in this area, see Retirement Voices,
an information-sharing project about retirement concerns designed for
late-career women.)

If these figures demonstrate anything, it’s that women who work
for an employer that offers a defined benefit plan such as PERA’s are far more
prepared for retirement than are average American women. Even if pay is low,
PERA members are saving for a future retirement distribution. This is important
because the proportion of female PERA members and retirees is 66 percent—including
a robust 74 percent who work in or have retired from the School and DPS Divisions—and
they have or are earning a retirement income that cannot be outlived and can be
passed on to survivors. They also have health care
that those who spend their careers in the private sector may
not have access to, as well as the ability to participate in low-cost voluntary
savings vehicles like PERAPlus.

Women who have chosen a career in public service in Colorado
have, almost by definition, set themselves on a productive path toward
retirement. To further strengthen their financial security, they should
continue to take advantage of the many ways PERA can help ensure a secure

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