Women and retirement

Women have unique needs when it comes to retirement:

  • On average, women live longer than men. Spending more years in retirement means they need their retirement savings to last longer. It also means they may face higher health-care expenses and are more likely to need long-term care.
  • Women also tend to have lower lifetime earnings than men. That’s partly because of the pay gap, but it’s also due to women being more likely to take time out of the workforce to care for children or other family members.

You can take steps now to plan for potential challenges and save for the retirement you want. Consider starting with these.

Retirement income and Social Security:

  1. Be aware that you may have an income gap in retirement. Social Security generally replaces 40% or less of pre-retirement income. You may need about 80% of your current income to maintain your current standard of living. You can see how much you're projected to receive in Social Security benefits at ssa.gov/myaccount.

    If you have a pension, it can meet a significant portion of your income needs. On average, pensions replace about half of pre-retirement income.1 However, even when combined with Social Security, there may be a difference between the income you have and what you need.

  2. Use My Interactive Retirement Planner(SM) to identify income gaps. You can use the tool to see your current projected retirement income, which factors in sources like Social Security and pensions. Then, set savings goals, check your progress and make adjustments as you go. Starting or increasing your contributions can help fill any gaps you identify.

  3. To increase your Social Security benefit, delay filing for as long as possible. Your benefit amount is based on your 35 highest-paying years of adjusted earnings that were taxed to pay into Social Security. You’ll receive 100% of your benefit if you file at your Full Retirement Age, which for most is age 66 or 67. You can file as early as age 62 but your benefit will be permanently reduced by up to 30%. On the other hand, you receive 8% more for each year you wait to claim after your Full Retirement Age up to age 70.

  4. Compare different Social Security benefits you may have available to help maximize your income. If you’re married, you may qualify for a spousal benefit that could be higher than your own. If so, coordinating how and when you and your spouse claim Social Security could help you get a higher amount. You may also qualify for a divorced or survivor benefit. Consider all your options before deciding.

Health care:

  1. Know that health care costs are one of the largest expenses for retirees. You may have health care benefits available to you and your dependents after you retire, so review your benefits with your employer. If you do, it can significantly reduce your health-care costs in retirement.

  2. Factor in health care when setting your retirement savings goals. Medicare and other health insurance include expenses like premiums, deductibles, copayments and coinsurance. Monthly Medicare premiums can account for a sizeable portion of health care spending in retirement.2 To see current premiums, visit Medicare.gov. You may also need to cover care that Medicare doesn’t pay for, like dental care, vision care and hearing aids.

  3. Earmark a portion of your savings for out-of-pocket costs. This includes everything outside of premiums, like deductibles and non-covered care. These less-predictable expenses can account for 20% or more of health care spending for retirees.2 Having money reserved to cover them can give you peace of mind.

  4. Take advantage of a Health Savings Account (HSA) if your employer offers one. Money you set aside in an HSA can be used for qualified medical expenses tax-free both now and after you retire. In 2024, annual contribution limits (including employer contributions) are $4,150 for individuals and $8,300 for a family. If you’re 55 or older, you can make additional $1,000 catch-up contributions each year. If your employer doesn’t offer one and you meet eligibility requirements, you may be able to set up an HSA outside of your employer, such as through a bank or credit union.

Long-term care:

  1. Think through potential long-term care scenarios by asking yourself important questions:
    • What kind of care might I need if I don’t have or outlive a spouse or partner?
    • What kind of care would I be comfortable receiving?
    • Would family members be willing or able to help with my care if needed and how much?
    • Discussing these questions with family members can help you sort out the answers.

  2. Consider long-term care coverage. Typically, this is the only coverage that will pay for long-term help you may need with daily living, including care received inside and outside your home. Medicare and private health insurance generally don’t pay for long-term care. Having coverage can help you keep more of your income should you need it.

  3. Include potential long-term care expenses in your retirement savings goals. Talk to a Retirement Specialist about scenarios like aging in place or receiving care outside your home. Together, you can decide how planning for long-term care fits in with your retirement-savings strategy.
Ready to start or build your retirement savings? Log in to set up or increase your contributions. To learn more, register for our Women and Retirement webinar.

1"Net Pension Replacement Rates," Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (2021; accessed March 13, 2023).

2"How much do retirees spend on uncertain health costs?," Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (August 2022). How Much Do Retirees Spend on Uncertain Health Costs? (bc.edu)

Source: IRS Gives Big Boost to HSA, HDHP Limits in 2024 (shrm.org)