5 Personal Finance Retirement Strategies for Women

Women face different personal finance challenges when planning for retirement than men do. According to the 2007 U.S. Women's Bureau and the National Committee on Pay Equity, women earn roughly 78 cents for every dollar earned by men, so they have less with which to invest.

Moreover, women are more likely to take time out from their careers to care for family, losing out on advancement opportunities in the process. Women are more likely to work at part-time jobs or at jobs that don't offer retirement benefits and are less likely to participate in 401K plans due to lower salaries.

Finally, women statistically have longer lifespans than men, and should therefore plan for more years spent in retirement than men. Here are 5 personal finance strategies women can use to help ensure they'll be financially ready at retirement.

1. Know Your Baseline and Your Options

The US Department of Labor suggests starting out by asking some important questions, such as:

  • Does your employer offer a retirement plan?
  • Have you worked at your employer long enough to earn retirement benefits?
  • If you change employers, what happens to your retirement benefits?
  • Do you know your options for retirement savings outside employer-sponsored plans?
  • Do you keep track of your Social Security earnings?

By knowing the answers to these questions, you have a starting point with which to begin managing your retirement savings more proactively.

2. Prioritize

You have to make retirement planning a priority in your personal finance plan to have the most comfortable retirement, and that requires a long term view. Make sure both you and your spouse are on the same page with prioritizing retirement savings. You both need to be clear about what you expect retirement to be like and how much you expect monthly living costs to be compared to what you're making now.

Should you divorce, you need to know how your retirement planning is affected. Depending on the length of marriage you may be entitled to a share of your spouse's Social Security payments, depending on whether you remarry. Whether you negotiate part of your spouse's 401K or pension earnings as part of the divorce settlement will also affect your personal finances.

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3. If You're Eligible for a 401K, Use It

Even if your employer does not offer a pension plan, they probably offer a tax-deferred retirement investment plan like a 401K. If your company offers a 401K, taking advantage of it from the first day you're eligible is one of the best personal finance decisions you can make, particularly if your employer matches part of your contribution.

If you do not work where you have access to a 401K or retirement plan, you have other options, like traditional individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and Roth IRAs, which differ based on when taxes are paid on the income used for them. Your tax advisor can help you choose the type of retirement account to choose if you don't have access to retirement savings through work.

4. Plan for Spending During Retirement

While setting aside money for retirement is critical, you also have to plan for how you want to spend your retirement. You may end up being retired for 20 to 30 years, so you need a plan for making smart use of your resources during retirement. Plan for short term expenses like food, housing, utilities, and taxes, but also know your desires in terms of travel, entertainment, and where you'd like to live. Estimating budgetary needs during retirement is important to knowing whether you're on track to meet those needs.

5. Educate Yourself and Be Assertive

Don't wait to learn about the choices you'll face during retirement, such as when to start claiming Social Security and supplementing Medicare coverage. Working with a financial planner now can help you build your retirement funds using a risk profile that works for your needs. You have dozens, if not hundreds of options for building your retirement fund, and a certified financial planner can help you succeed. Ask for word-of-mouth recommendations, and don't shortchange due diligence in researching any financial advisor you may hire.

As a woman today you have to take charge of your personal finance decisions to make sure you can take care of your needs here and now, and in the future. One great way to start gaining control of your personal finances is with Mint. Budgeting, planning and investment tools let you see your financial picture both short term and long term, and are a great way to make the most of your hard-earned money.

Start now: Sign up for Mint and learn about budgeting and the fundamentals of personal finance.