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Women face challenges when planning for retirement.

Women generally earn less over the course of their lifetimes than men which is often due to family care giving responsibilities. Statistically, women live longer than men1 which means women will need to stretch their retirement savings and benefits over a longer period of time.

Women and men may start out on relatively equal financial footing in their 20s, however, when children come along, women are much more likely to take time out of the workforce to care for them.2 A common refrain is “my salary would just go to daycare costs anyway, so what’s the point?” This may seem true, but it’s really not fair for one parent to assume sole responsibility for child-care costs; it is a shared financial responsibility that both parents should take on.

Women are stepping out of the workforce in their 20s, 30s, or 40s to care for children, or even aging family members— a time when their career might be kicking into, or is already in, high gear.

A long break from the workforce can result in financial losses beyond the immediate loss of salary. It can mean a stagnant salary down the road due to difficulties re-entering the workforce and/or a loss of promotion opportunities, as well as lower Social Security retirement benefits.  

There is an interruption in saving for retirement along with the loss of an employer match and other employee benefits like health or disability insurance. There may be a postponement in the repayment of student loans and other debt resulting in a long term debt burden.

Could a flexible work schedule help women stay in the workforce while also caring for family?

For women who would like to keep working but can’t accommodate the traditional, 40-hour-per-week, in-office schedule, they should consider requesting a modified work schedule. This could mean telecommuting from home one or more days per week, having a flexible work schedule (such as 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.), working part-time, or some combination thereof.

Women should think about what their ideal work arrangement would be and request a meeting with their manager to discuss the proposal. The plan should include a trial period after which both sides can come back to the table and evaluate how things are working. Employers are increasingly recognizing that flexible schedules are key to having a diverse, gender-neutral workforce. In the end, asking for a flexible schedule might just allow women to keep a steady salary and continue saving for retirement.                              

Source: Broadridge

1) NCHS Data Brief, Number 293, December 2017

2) U.S. Department of Labor Blog, Women and Retirement Savings, March 2017

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