Women need to save more for retirement than men, thanks to a persistent wage gap over the length of their careers. But how do you really know how much you should be saving, or what your savings should look like by now, barring the wage gap?
Research suggests that, on average, women need to save $1.25 for every $1 saved by men. That's because of a number of reasons, including the fact that, "with longer lives, women also have more years of health care to pay for," according to the Journal of Accountancy. A healthy 55-year-old woman can expect to spend $79,000 more on health care in retirement than a man of the same age, especially as women are much more likely to need long-term care. In fact, 70 percent of the residents in nursing homes are women, according to the research.
On top of living longer, women of the baby boomer generation were primary caregivers of their families, and many of them took off time to raise children, which resulted in losses in income. Many of these women also didn't stay in their jobs long enough to become vested in retirement plans, and most part-time jobs that offered them more flexibility didn't offer the opportunity to participate in 401(k) plans.
Women who work longer and put off family planning today still struggle to save for retirement more than men, however. Women who work full time in the United States are still typically paid just 80 percent of what men are paid, which means that there's still a pay gap of 20 percent. And many of these women are paying off more debt than their male counterparts. Student loan debt, for example, affects women more than men; families tend to save and spend more on sons’ educations than daughters’ educations, which means that women with student loans tend to pay back their debts slower than men with student loans.
The combination of living longer, having less access to retirement programs, and having more debt means that many women are less likely to have planned or saved enough for retirement, and poverty rate remains nearly double that of men among women 65 years old and up.
So how can women today, who are working longer hours and earning more than before, stem the tides? Many experts suggest that you’ll need roughly 80 percent of your salary after retirement to avoid making sacrifices. But saving enough for retirement isn't an easy feat.
Though it's seldom the case, here's what your 401(k) should ideally look like throughout the course of your life, according to averages from Turbo.
1. 20 years old
Many workers in their 20s are still facing crippling student loan debt, are moving out of their parents' homes for the first time and are in jobs with lower starting salaries. This means that many of them have not yet started saving, or in a job where a 401(k) plan isn't even offered, according to Turbo.
2. 30 years old
By age 30, the ideal 401(k) is equal to about one year's salary, according to Turbo. This means that if you earn $50,000 a year, you'll want to have saved $50,000 in your 401(k) amount.
3. 40 years old
By age 40, most people have seen an increase in their salary from the time they were starting out, and they're likely in more stable jobs. The ideal savings for you as a 40-year-old should be about three years worth of your salary. This means that if you earn $70,000 a year, you'll want to have saved about $210,000 in your 401(k), according to Turbo.
4. 50 years old
By age 50, you'll want to have saved about five years worth of your salary, according to Turbo. If you earn $80,000 you, therefore, will want to have saved about $400,000 in your 401(k) account.
5. 60 years old
At 60 years old, you're probably looking at retiring. Working Americans expect to retire at 66 years old, which is up from 63 years old in 2002, according to a recent Gallup poll. But the average retirement age is 62, Gallup found. This means that, by the time you reach your 60s, you'll want to have finally saved about six times your salary. So, if your salary is $100,000, you should aim to have $600,000 saved in your 401(k) before you retire.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report,