Women need to save more than men for a secure retirement
*Why women need to save more than men for a secure retirement*
If you are a 25-year-old working woman, retirement planning is probably the least of your priorities. Yet, it should be the topmost. Not just because it’s a crucial goal but also because you are a woman.
Yes, you read that right. Being a woman puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to building a corpus for retirement as you will need to save at least twice as much as a man. If you are still dismissive about the premise because you plan to get married and, of course, you and your spouse can muster a big enough corpus, think again.
There is a possibility that you may remain single, or the marriage may not work, or God forbid, you are widowed with children. According to the 2011 Census, there were nearly 74 million single women in India— unmarried, divorced, separated and widowed—and there was a 39% increase in single women between 2001 and 2011.
In such a case, you need to be proactive about handling your finances, especially retirement planning. The three reasons you will need to save more than men are:
Women earn less
The gender pay gap is huge in India, with women earning 20% less than men, according to the Monster Salary Index (MSI). While men earn a median gross hourly salary of Rs 231, women earn only Rs 184.8. The pay gap also increases with experience: while men with up to two years’ experience earn 7.8% higher median wages, those with 11 or more years of experience get 25% more. Little wonder then that India ranked 108 on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap
Report 2017, while it was placed 136 out of 144 in terms of workplace gender gap. What this means is that because women earn lesser, they will contribute lesser toward their savings. If a man earns Rs 40,000 a month and puts away 10% of this amount for retirement, he will save Rs 48,000 a year. On the other hand, a 20% less salary means, the woman will earn Rs 32,000 a month and will save only Rs 38,400 a year, resulting in a considerably depleted corpus.
Women work for fewer years
Not only do women earn less, but they also work for fewer years because they usually take time off for child care. On an average, they spend about seven years away from work, which means they are not saving anything during this period. Besides, the truncated work experience means that when, and if, they rejoin the workforce, they will start at much lower salaries than their male peers. This is usually only about 30% more than their last drawn salaries. It will also mean that they qualify for lower retirement benefits.
Higher life expectancy
Add to these the fact that women tend to live longer, with a life expectancy of 69.9 years at birth, compared with 66.9 years for men. At 60, when most Indians retire, life expectancy for men is 77.2 and 78.6 for women. What this means is that the retirement corpus for women needs to be bigger than men so that it can last them longer. More importantly, the health-car costs see a sharp rise, resulting in a quick depletion of the corpus. So the financial fortication for women must be better, if not the same, as men.
What can women do to overcome these inequities and secure their retirement?
Women need to save at least twice as much as men. “Instead of 10% of their monthly incomes, they should save 20-25% for retirement,” says Financial Planner Pankaaj Maalde. If it seems hard to do so in the initial years because of the temptation to spend, lock the investments through ECS mandate to your bank account. Another option is to save more in the Provident Fund by opting for VPF (Voluntary Provident Fund) contribution with your employer in addition to the EPF. This will ensure that the money is deducted from your salary even before it reaches your account. There is no 12% ceiling of mandatory contribution as with EPF and you can enjoy its tax-free status: tax deduction under Section 80C, no tax on interest or on the maturity proceeds.
The best trick to save more, of course, is to invest smart. “Get your asset allocation right. With a long time horizon, investing in debt is more dangerous than saving less,” says Maalde. So, retain a small portion in debt, but invest a larger percentage in equity instruments like equity or balanced mutual funds to ensure you get high returns over the long term. Also make sure that you invest in line with your goal. For this, it is important that you calculate the retirement corpus correctly, taking into account the eroding effect of inflation and the impact of inflation and the impact of taxation on your investments.
Secure health insurance
“One of the best investment decisions you can make to protect your retirement corpus from depleting is to buy health insurance,” says Maalde. Given the high medical inflation of 12-15% and higher incidence of lifestyle diseases, especially in old age, it makes sense to purchase a health cover because it will stop you from dipping into your retirement corpus during a medical emergency.
Bargain better at workplace
This is another skill that will stand you in good stead. Do not hesitate to bargain for a good increment at workplace and, more importantly, for a higher salary when you change jobs. Since it’s very likely that you are being paid lesser than your male counterparts, it will not hurt to stand up for your due remuneration. The more you earn, the higher the contribution to the retirement corpus, and it may also reflect in your retirement benefits later on.
It is a good idea for women to continue working in retirement because there is a high likelihood that they will live for another 15-20 years. Start planning for the post-retirement career during your working years so that the transition is smooth and the corpus can last longer.