First Person: As a Woman, I’m Not Destined to Retire Poor

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Experts say women are more likely to retire poor than men. Because most women have a longer life line, it makes sense women need to save more for retirement. My husband often tells me to stop worrying about our finances and the future. I tell him that what he interprets as worrying is really my persistent planning. By planning ahead, I'll prevent that "bag lady future" that awaits some women.

Participating in a retirement plan

According to a recent article on women's special retirement challenges, only 45 percent of the 62 million working women participate in retirement plans. I am planning to keep my full-time job so that I can be eligible to contribute to a company-sponsored retirement plan. When I was self-employed, I contributed to a Roth IRA. If I am ever laid off and decide to go back to being an independent contractor, I'll max out my Roth IRA and look into other retirement savings options as well.

Maxing out social security

Some women I know say they expect to live on their husband's social security benefits, which are much greater than their own. I plan to follow in my mom's footsteps. She worked until she was 70, after becoming a widow. If she had taken early retirement at age 62, she would not have been able to surpass her husband's social security benefits.

Diversifying, diversifying, diversifying

Because I may live to be 100, I can't risk all of my money by putting my eggs in one basket. According to a Consumer Reports article, people who diversify widely accumulate more money than people with higher incomes who don't put their money in a variety of investment vehicles. People with incomes less than $85,000 who used seven or more investment types had a median savings of $368,000 compared to $315,000 reported by those with a higher income who used three or fewer investment types. I invest in gold, stocks, bonds, exchange traded funds (ETFS), mutual funds, index funds and real estate.

Living below my means

I'd rather live below my means now than live in poverty in retirement. I'm particularly fond of Dave Ramsey's saying, "If you live like no one else, later you can live like no on else." While some of my female friends are out shopping for clothes, I am saving for the future and paying down my mortgage so I can retire without mortgage debt.

Educating myself

Some women are intimidated by investing. When I was in my 30s, I wasn't afraid to talk to financial experts and friends who traded stocks with online trading accounts. Investing is not as difficult as it seems. I saved up just $1,000 in my savings account to open an online trading account with one of the brokerage firms that charge small commission fees per trade. I learned about ETFS. I researched individual stocks by reading the message boards, company news and other articles. I'm not ashamed to say I watch The Suze Orman Show and listen to Dave Ramsey's programs on the radio.

I don't know many people who strive to retire broke, but some women do fall into poverty in retirement. I've had good female role models who worked beyond full retirement age and diversified their investments in do-it-yourself brokerage accounts. I am planning for an extravagant retirement lifestyle so that if I fall short, I'll still be as comfortable as I am now.

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