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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

A New Battle of the Sexes? Retirement Strategies at Odds

A recent Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America study of married Baby Boomers found a surprising disparity in how men and women view retirement planning. Released last month, “Leading-Edge Boomers: Rethinking Retirement & Exploring Annuities” surveyed 1,019 adults between 50 and 59 and uncovered vastly diverging ideas on how most men and women plan to pay for their retirement years. The main point of contention, the study found, was the role of annuities, which women typically see as a substantial source of income during retirement while men would prefer to direct the money toward dependents. Similarly, women want a slow and steady income stream, similar to what they receive as a full-time employee. Men, on the other hand, want to leave behind a lump-sum death payment to dependents, the study said. Locally, brokers have long seen that men and women have different ideas about financial planning. But many brokers said the two sides are actually more likely to see eye-to-eye today more than ever before. “It’s kind of a mixed bag,” said Jim Bruno of the Westlake Village firm Bruno Associates, who has been in the financial planning business for 30 years. The main schism, Bruno said, is about how the genders view their cumulative nest egg and how to make it last. “There’s a tendency for the men to want to leave a legacy for the children whereas many of the spouses tend to be a little bit more concerned for their retirement needs,” he said. That doesn’t surprise Adriane G. Berg, an elder law attorney and author of “How Not to Go Broke at 102: Achieving Everlasting Wealth.” She said the difference is the result of a simple fact: Women generally still live longer than men. “Longevity is a woman’s issue,” Berg said, because wives typically outlive husbands and therefore have a vested interest in making sure the cash lasts. “Women are very concerned about not outliving their money. There’s a transition that happens,” she said. Mark A. Davis, a principal with Kravitz Davis Sansone in Encino, said that in his experience, the longevity issue isn’t too far below the surface for women planning how to live after they or their spouse stops working. As a result, wives will often look to investing with a cautious eye, he said. “Women will have longer life expectancies and will invest more conservatively,” Davis said. But it’s not the only factor at play. Judith Chipps, a longtime financial advisor and first vice president of investments at Merrill Lynch in Encino, said men and women often have dissimilar ideas about what they want to do in their twilight years. She cited the recent Merrill Lynch New Retirement Study of 5,000 Baby Boomers that showed about 75 percent had no intention of retiring at all. These days, an increasing number of men are electing to work well after 65, and only cutting back slightly to spend more time with their families. More women, on the other hand, are electing to use retirement years to try a new career path or get involved with their community, Chipps said. “They intend to postpone old age and create a whole new life stage that includes a balance of work and active living,” she said. Gender equals? Most brokers said the disparities are muted compared to previous generations because most couples today don’t have much of a plan in the first place. “When it comes to saving for retirement, I think both sexes are doing a poor job,” said Dennis DeYoung, a broker with Brookstreet Securities in Northridge. These days, DeYoung said, retirement and nest eggs typically aren’t something couples think of until the last minute. “It sneaks up on them,” he said. The Guardian Life study found similar results. About half who participated agreed that they didn’t know how much income they would need to save for retirement. “We haven’t trained our populace to that,” Davis said. He reasoned that the generations after World War II of which Baby Boomers are the first are simply ill-equipped for what comes after their working lives cease. “We have to put a lot more effort into training,” he said. That lack of knowledge, however, has meant both sexes are starting from something of a blank slate, which makes them more likely to see eye-to-eye. “For the most part, it becomes a collaborative effort,” Bruno said. “There’s a little more synergy between husband and wife. Maybe it’s out of necessity.” That may also be a product of the fact women and men also divide financial responsibilities. A generation ago, finances were traditionally handled by husbands, a fact no longer true for Boomers at the cusp of retiring, said Chipps of Merrill Lynch. “For younger investors, men and women are much more similar,” she said. Another change is the issue of leaving behind money for dependents. Twenty years ago, leaving behind an estate or other finances was a major priority, Bruno said. “But in the past 10 years, people have come to the realization that they are going to live longer,” he said. Both sides need the money now, he said. “Particularly in the state of California, where it’s so expensive to live, there’s a shift in the thinking of both spouses to protect their living needs first and foremost,” he said. “With the cost of living being so high, out of necessity, that paradigm has shifted.” All of which makes long-term planning all the more important, Bruno said. With more demands for cash today, DeYoung said that few people now how to make the money last. “The priorities that people have are all screwed up,” he said. Those that are proactive often and wrongly see their homes as a source for equity, he said. “People hope the rising value of homes will pay off,” he said. “A house isn’t a retirement plan.” And forget about Social Security, DeYoung said. “It’s just a matter of time before it runs out,” he said. “The government’s not going to bail anyone out.” Instead, DeYoung tells couples to start a simple plan: start saving. “I try to get people to save as much as possible,” he said. “You just can’t under-save.” And that’s something everyone can agree with.

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