I was 18 when I took my first off-farm job. It was selling shoes at an athletic store in Manhattan, Kan. Not exactly a glamorous gig, but it was a paying gig. And I remember stopping by my grandma’s house to show her my first paycheck. She told me then something that has stuck with me for years: Put some of it aside for your future.
I took her advice, and out of every paycheck since that first one, I’ve put a little bit aside for my future. The amount might have varied, but I made it a priority to save for the day when I could no longer work. But, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, I’m an anomaly. According to its 2017 Survey of Income and Program Participation, 49% of adults ages 55 to 66 had no personal retirement savings. And 50% of women of the same age bracket have no personal retirement savings, compared to 47% of men.
My grandmother loved being a wife and mother, but she also was a very practical woman — and she passed that on to her children and grandchildren. One of her many lessons to us granddaughters was to make sure we could take care of ourselves, no matter what the future might hold. And if we had our own nest eggs, then no one could tell us what to do.
She sure was a spitfire.
So, I look at those figures from the Census Bureau. and I shake my head. What is stopping more women from saving for their retirements today?
According to the Department of Labor, women are more likely to work in part-time jobs that don’t qualify for a retirement plan. And working women are more likely than men to interrupt their careers to take care of family members, or to have children. But 46% of working women who are eligible do participate in a retirement plan.
It’s particularly troublesome because on average, a female retiring at 65 can expect to live another 21 years, according to the Department of Labor. That’s nearly three years longer than a man retiring at the same age.
So, basically, women work fewer years, for less pay, and contribute less toward their retirement, which will be longer because of their longevity. And if you’re a farmer, there are even more complex issues to consider.
Where to start?
First, consult a financial adviser with your specific issues. Farm couples often have complex pieces of their own financial puzzle, whether it’s Social Security, land ownership, off-farm job retirement benefits, or others.
Second, it’s never too late to commit to your future financial security. The Department of Labor has some tips for women of any age to start the savings process.
1. If your employer offers a retirement plan, join it as soon as you can and contribute as much as the plan allows.
2. Before interrupting your career, research if you are vested and can receive retirement benefits. Plans often require employees to work a certain number of years before they are vested and can receive benefits.
3. Research what happens to your retirement benefits if you change jobs and need to roll over your retirement plan to a new employer’s plan.
4. Track your Social Security benefits.
5. In instance of divorce, you may be able to obtain rights to a portion of your spouse’s retirement benefit. Consult your attorney.
Ladies, it’s 2022, and my grandma’s advice is just as valid today as it was in 1996.
It’s time women started taking their financial security into their own hands. We should teach our daughters and our nieces about finance. We should talk about this with our friends, just like we swap recipes or talk about career paths.
Let’s normalize building our nest eggs.
Do it for Grandma.