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One-third of all women who become a widow are under age 65, and only a third of the women have some sort of retirement account.
On average, widowhood itself causes a decline in income of 20 percent. Even if you receive money from a life insurance policy, you still need to understand how to make that money last through retirement. Are you prepared?
Brenda Hartt and her husband had a plan for retirement, but that all changed seven years ago when he died unexpectedly. Brenda was 52. "I just wasn't prepared for what happened. It put me into a situation where I had to make sure that the house payments and mortgage and everything was taken care of, and kind of go on my own," Brenda says.
According to statistics, most women aren't prepared to go at it alone. Twenty-seven percent of unmarried woman between the ages of 65 and 69 are poor compared to 7 percent of married women.
Cece Mitchell, vice president at Zions Bank, says, I think a lot of women don't have a good understanding. More of them are becoming aware, and that's an important thing.
Cece counseled women on planning for retirement and says the first step married women need to take is simply talking to their husbands about their finances. She says woman should ask him, "Where are the accounts? How are they set up?" She says, "It's a tough conversation to have if you've never been brave enough to do that before."
Another thing to keep in mind: the traditional approach to retirement no longer works. Women live longer than men and often require long-term care. Expenses like medical insurance are a lot higher.
Cece says employer-provided pensions and Social Security aren't the safety nets they once were, especially if you have to collect early. "You have to start thinking in today's terms and not yesterday's terms about what it will take to make the payments," Cece says.
The key to financial security is taking action now. You should have your own retirement plan and learn about investing because, most likely, it will all be left up to you one day.
For a list of sources on retirement, including a life expectancy calculator, go to the related links.