(Dow Jones) While financial advisors typically discuss longevity with clients, more are taking extra steps to ensure that female clients are ready for a longer life--and both the higher costs and tough decisions that go along with it.
On the strictly financial side, that means encouraging women to keep some savings in equities longer so that it can grow long term and to consider using annuities and getting long-term care insurance, among other things. It also means getting them to think about the possibility of widowhood, divorce, or a husband's disability--and what they would do in those circumstances.
"It's not just talking about their goals. It's discussing the 'what ifs'--everything that can get in the way," says Rebecca B. Hall, a certified financial planner with Ameriprise Financial in Reston, Va.
Client couples typically don't think through what would happen if one of them dies or becomes disabled, she says. Advisors say it is especially important for women to do that, because they are more likely to be making the final decisions on a portfolio, or what's left of one.
"Women live longer than men, but they don't necessarily work longer," says Anna Rappaport, co-author of a recent report from the Society of Actuaries on "The Impact of Retirement Risk on Women."
"There is a lack of awareness for many couples of what happens when one dies and that the surviving spouse could be worse off," Rappaport says.
A recent study by the society found that there are gaps in planning for women's longevity. While half of women who reach 65 will live beyond 85, 92% of female retirees and 89% of female pre-retirees "do not plan far enough in the future to cover this 20 year period," it says.
Advisors don't typically set aside a separate pot of money for women to use as they age, but more are trying to raise awareness about the special circumstances they face: Women not only live longer, but face an average lifetime cost of long-term health-care services of about $82,000 compared with $29,000 for men. (That is in 2000 dollars.) Also, "they are much less likely to have someone to take care of them because they are more likely to not have a spouse," Rappaport says.
Hall says women are often more reluctant than men to expose their savings to the risks of the stock market, which means they often don't have that opportunity for investment growth. "In general, women don't take as much risk, so they may need to save even more," she says.
Susan L. Hirshman, a financial expert and author of "Does This Make My Assets Look Fat?: A Woman's Guide to Finding Financial Empowerment and Success," says even if someone is married, "they need to be prepared to be alone because of death, disability or divorce." The average age of widowhood is 56, she says, and the fastest growing category of divorcees is people in their 60s.
Hirshman, who trained advisors in a previous job, says many women still avoid financial planning because they don't think they have the time or the knowledge.
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