Yes Virginia, Women Do Live Too Long

Yes, it is true, women live too long. The numbers say the average lifespan of women is 79, whereas for men it is 72. Why do I say women live too long? It is due to the very real risk of a reduced standard of living in a her later years.

Consider the following facts. On average women still earn less than men. Women have smaller pensions and social security benefits than men. The average age of widowhood is 56. Approximately 75% of women are eventually widowed. 87% of the adults living in poverty are women. (Statistics from WIFE, the Women’s Institute for Financial Education)

On the other hand, there is some good news. Women tend to be better investors than men, and this fact could greatly aid them during their lifetimes. Hmm, could that have something to do with women finding it easier than men to ask for directions?

In my 26 years as an investment advisor, and with a large number of single women as clients, my observation is it is also because women tend to be more security conscious than men. This security consciousness begins early and holds true for a lifetime. In addition, women tend to focus on the longer term, and make fewer investment mistakes than men.

So, where does all this leave us? Based on the longevity of women, indeed, women and men alike, it is certainly in our interests to provide sufficient sources of income to carry us comfortably through our seventies, eighties, nineties, and even beyond. The question is, how?

Social security will be one part of the answer for most, although we may have to face the likelihood of diminished benefits at some point in the future. Pensions are an additional part of the equation, although pensions are fast disappearing for much of the work force. This leaves it up to the third leg of the income puzzle, our own investment nest egg.

A solution we have used for many years on behalf of our clients is to divide the investment nest egg into a number of parts, based on an individuals age, financial needs, amount of assets available, etc.

The next step is to determine the amount of supplemental income required to fund the desired lifestyle. Then, place enough of the nest egg into a monthly income annuity, designed to pay the amount required for her lifetime, and the spouses lifetime, if applicable. Why an income annuity? Because it is the only investment I am aware of that will pay a lifetime income, no matter how long the recipient may live.

But what about inflation? To answer that challenge we place the remainder of the nest egg into an investment portfolio composed of what we call “All Weather” mutual funds, the term all weather meaning lower volatility funds that have a long term record of consistent, year in year out performance, and that withstand declining markets exceptionally well. Those kinds of funds are not in abundance, but they can be found. Why mutual funds? Because they can be a simple, low cost yet effective way to manage your portfolio.

When the need arises for additional income, as it most surely will, we then take a portion from the mutual fund portfolio, which presumably has been growing in value for a period of time, place this into another lifetime income annuity, and the process is repeated.

We can slice and dice this process in any number of ways, but the above is a big picture view of the challenge, and potential solution, to living long, and living well.

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