For entirely too many hard-working folks, there is a significant gap between the retirement life they desire and the one they will be able to afford if they do not adequately prepare for the future. Traditional goals such as living in an inviting home and devoting time to adventurous travel may not be realistic for individuals who haven't calculated how much retirement money they will have and how much money they will need to support their ideal lifestyle.
This need for financial literacy is particularly acute for women, who face strong institutional financial headwinds in the form of lower pay and more years out of the paid workforce than men on average (for more on this read my blog post on "The 77/11 Effect").
According to The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, many well-intentioned women are not prepared for the future. Their recent study on Women and Retirement reveals some sobering statistics:
- 48 percent of women do not have any retirement strategy at all, despite the fact that 56 percent of women expect to self-fund their retirement through 401(k)s, retirement accounts, or other savings and investments.
- 53 percent of women plan to retire after age 65 or do not plan to retire at all; most of these women cite reasons related to income or health benefits as the reason for this.
- 54 percent of women are "not too confident" or "not at all confident," compared to only 44 percent of men who share that sentiment; only seven percent of women are "very confident" in their ability to fully retire with a comfortable lifestyle.
Given the statistical reality that women live longer and earn less than men over the course of their lifetime, it vital that we both develop a clear strategy for a comfortable retirement and take action on it.
The first step is to use a retirement calculator to determine how much money will be available to you at your current rate of savings. I like the "Ballpark E$timator" retirement calculator from Choose To Save.
The next step is to identify how much money you will need to live your ideal lifestyle. You may need to consult with a financial advisor to determine how the rate of inflation will impact what you can afford. A rough rule of thumb is 70-90% of your current income (ouch, I know).
Last but not least, you will need to compare the two numbers to see if you need to start saving more aggressively to meet your target. If you feel that you don't have enough money to maximize your retirement account each month, you should also take a look at current expenditures that are not essential to your joy and livelihood. Using a digital tracking tool such as Mint or Hello Wallet can help you find hidden money, so you can channel more resources toward creating the future of your dreams.
These three steps are basic, but not easy. Investing a bit of time to calculate these figures can pay rich dividends in the future in terms of your ability to make the mid-course corrections to get your dream retirement back on track. Although it may be challenging to practice mindful spending, when you stay connected to what is truly fulfilling in the present as well as your hopes for the future, you will be more motivated to set aside money to sustain your ideal life.
[This post originally appeared at MoneyZen.com. Photo credit Louis Leray]. For more MoneyZen in your life, follow Manisha on Twitter at @ManishaThakor, on Facebook at /ManishaThakor, or sign up to receive Manisha's MoneyZen blog via email by clicking here.