Women face many unique financial challenges in life.

Eighty percent of women die single while 80% of men die married. The main reason for this is that women often marry men who are a few years older than them. This, combined with longer life expectancies, creates the disparity in marital status at death.

The average woman becomes a widow at 58 ½. This is much younger than for men. Most household suffer an income loss after death. Today, most households are dependent on two incomes. In a retired family on Social Security, one check goes away at the first death. If there is a pension, it may end totally or be reduced in half.

This creates a major problem since most living expenses do not go down with a death. Property taxes, utilities and maintenances remain about the same. The only savings are for food and personal purchases for the deceased. These are often minor parts of the budget.

One expense that does increase dramatically is income taxes. Often this may be several hundred percent. This is because you get only half as much untaxed money from your personal exemption and tax brackets are only about half the size for people filing single when compared to married filing jointly.

Women work an average of 12 years fewer than men. This is often caused by staying home to care for young children, or maybe leaving the work force sooner to care for elderly parents. This causes their Social Security benefits to be lower and savings in 401(k) plans to be lower.

It is important for women to be involved in Social Security claiming decisions their husbands make.

Often, people would like to retire early after 30 or 40 years in the work force. Starting Social Security before full retirement age reduces lifetime benefits for a family. Not only is the early retiree’s check reduced, but it could also affect the spouse. Spouses can receive additional benefits if they would receive less than half of their husband’s benefit with their own work record.

Upon the first death, one SS check is going away; the good news it is the lower one. By waiting until full retirement age to begin the first check, the survivor could receive much more to help replace lost income.

If you visit a nursing home, you will notice probably 85% of the patients are women. This is because when the man needs help with long-term care, the wife is often still there. When the wife needs the help, she is often a widow. Women also spend more on health care costs than men, likely because of the longer life expectancy.

You must have a written plan to deal with all of these challenges. Anticipate and plan well ahead and you can be better prepared down the road.

Next Wednesday, Oct. 27, there will be a free event “All For Her” at Tanger Outlets in Washington County from 4 to 8 p.m. There will be many useful exhibits. I will be at the event so stop by and let me know any of your ideas for future columns.

Your Financial Future is written by certified financial planner Gary W. Boatman, MBA and CFP, who also wrote the book, “Your Financial Compass: Safe Passage Through The Turbulent Waters of Taxes, Income Planning and Market Volatility.” If there is an area that you would like to see discussed in the column, send your suggestions to gary@BoatmanWealthManagement.com.

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