Retirement is something not many of us think of in the early years of our working life. While you focus on enjoying your earnings in your youth, you must not lose sight of what the future holds. The sooner you begin thinking and planning for the future, the better prepared you can be for your crucial retirement years.
Planning for retirement is an exercise that one must carry out on basis of one’s specific goals, there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to retirement planning.
Each individual has to undertake their retirement planning based on several factors such as their present financial condition, their family structure, their age, their future life goals etc.
Further, if you are a woman your retirement needs and planning could significantly differ from those of your male counterpart. In fact you may need to make a more focussed effort towards your retirement than men need to.
These can be attributed to several socio-economic factors:
Women generally outlive men
All across the world, women are known to generally live longer than men. In India, the situation is no different.
As per the Human Development Report 20161, life expectancy in India averages at 66.9 years for men vis-a-vis 69.9 years for women. The 2011 Census depicted a similar disparity, with life expectancy during 2009-13 at 69.3 years for women as against 65.8 years for men2.
The 2011 Census also reported the sex ratio amongst the elderly in India at an alarming 1033 women for every 1000 men.2
It is projected that during 2000-2050, the overall population of India will grow by 56% while the population of people aged 60+ will grow by 326%. During the same period, the population of peopled age 80+ will grow 700% with a predominance of widowed and highly dependent very old women3.
Women’s health concerns can differ from men
As women generally live longer (than men), they are more likely to have a longer period of old age and probably a longer period of deteriorating health.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in its paper on women ageing in India (supra), found that large proportions of older women (70-80%) have at least one age-related disability.3
The UNFPA also found that arthritis, hypertension and cataract are the three most common ailments among all older persons and that the prevalence rates are much higher amongst older women.3
Women in India are also primary caregivers for their families and are often found neglecting their own health in their daily struggle of managing work outside along with their homes.
In spite of their increased susceptibility, women today are largely not adequately covered by health insurance schemes. As per National Family Health Survey (NFHS) published in December 2017, only 20 % of women age 15-49 are covered by health insurance or a health scheme. Further 67% of women in the age 15-49; report at least one problem for themselves in obtaining medical care. 25% of these women cite lack of money as a problem.
Fewer working years as compared to men
Typically women tend to have fewer working years than their husbands. Women are often seen taking a backseat from their careers to focus on the needs of their family and home.
As per NFHS4, 31% of currently married women and 98 % of currently married men are employed. These figures have been on the decline – having declined from 43 % in the previous NFHS4 to the current 31 %.
Many women also opt for part time work options which are generally less lucrative than full time paying jobs of their male counterparts.
In the NFHS4, 53.6% of the women in the age group 30-39 and 51.1% in the age group 40-49 reported lower cash earnings as compared to their husbands.
The above factors can contribute to significant financial unpreparedness and greater vulnerability for women in their retirement years.
The UNFPA3 has found that about 66% of all older women are fully dependent financially on others and another 21% are partially dependent. In fact 34% of older women as compared to only 11% of older men do not own any assets at all.
Thus the greater longevity of women compared to men coupled with the likelihood of shorter working years and lower absolute earnings over the course of their adult life, necessitates that women today should focus on retirement planning from an earlier age.
It is wise to apply the popular proverb –‘Better safe than sorry’ and seek advice to begin your retirement planning today, especially if you are a woman.
Key tips women could follow in their retirement planning:
Save more - Allocate a higher percentage of your earnings towards savings and investments
Contribute more – allocate a reasonable percentage of earnings to pension and social security schemes
Practice financial and investment discipline – You can set up investments via systematic investment plans (SIPs) – these ensure that you invest a minimum fixed amount each month and make it easier for you to stick to your investment targets.
Keep a long term perspective and look for long term investment solutions which can yield better returns.
Secure your home – Work towards securing a home for yourself to avoid rent payments in your retirement years
Insure yourself – Invest in good medical and term insurance plans to secure your old age. Insurers in India now also offer critical illness insurance in addition to traditional medical insurance which offers payment of a lump sum assured amount on diagnosis of specified life-altering illnesses.
1Published by United Nations Development Programme
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