Homemakers Are Not Off the Hook in Terms of Saving and Planning for Retirement

Recently released research exposes retirement risks faced by homemakers, offering perspective on the retirement outlook of 1,600 self-described homemakers spanning 15 countries around the world.

The report, “Homemakers Are Not Off the Hook: How Should They Be Planning for Retirement?” was released by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® in collaboration with the Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement.

“Homemakers contribute greatly to their families and society, as parents, caregivers, and role models to their children,” says Catherine Collinson, president of TCRS and executive director of ACLR. “Because their work is unpaid and comes without employer or retirement benefits, homemakers face even greater retirement risks than workers due to their reliance on others for income,” says Collinson.

The purpose of this new report from the 2015 Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey is to expose homemakers’ retirement risks, identify challenges and opportunities, and offer recommendations for homemakers and their families, as well as employers, and policymakers.

A Portrait of Homemakers

Who are homemakers? The survey set out to learn more about homemakers along with their preparations for retirement. It found that most homemakers are:
  • Women (86% globally, 81% United States);
  • Married, cohabiting, or in a civil partnership (88% globally, 90% U.S.);
  • Aged 18 to 44 (59% globally, 56% U.S.); and,
  • A parent of one or more financially dependent children (69% globally, 55% U.S.)
“In devoting their time to unpaid work, homemakers financially rely on their spouses or partners, a reliance that they expect to continue through retirement, a reliance that comes with risks,” Collinson says.

The majority of homemakers (65 percent globally, 75 percent U.S.) believe that their spouse or partner’s income will be “very” or “extremely” important to them in retirement.

Homemakers Face a Risky Retirement

“It is a myth that only workers retire,” says Collinson. “Homemakers also need to plan and prepare for financial security in old age. For everyone, and especially homemakers, a separation, divorce or loss of a spouse or partner can be devastating both emotionally and financially.”

Homemakers share similar dreams but are less optimistic about retirement than workers and retirees. When presented with a series of word associations about “retirement,” globally, only 60 percent of homemakers cite positive word associations compared with 71 percent of workers and retirees. In the U.S., 63 percent of homemakers cite positive word associations compared with 78 percent of workers and retirees.

Globally and in the U.S., workers and retirees are more likely than homemakers to associate retirement with positive words such as “leisure,” “freedom,” and “enjoyment.” In contrast, homemakers are more likely than workers and retirees to cite negative words such as “insecurity,” “poverty,” and “ill health.”

“Homemakers are vulnerable. The vast majority of homemakers are women and, statistically speaking, women live longer than men. The implications are that a homemaker will likely outlive her spouse or partner and she will live to an older age, thereby increasing the risk of inadequate savings and potential poverty,” says Collinson.

Homemakers Are Not Off the Hook: Proactive Steps Can Reduce Retirement Uncertainties

“Many homemakers are not taking charge of their future retirement,” says Collinson. Globally, only 32 percent of homemakers feel “very” responsible for personally making sure they have sufficient income in retirement. American homemakers (40 percent) are more likely to feel “very” responsible.

Fewer than half of homemakers are saving for retirement (47 percent globally, 44 percent U.S.). Just one in three homemakers (29 percent globally, 30 percent in the U.S.) consider themselves to be “habitual savers” who always make sure that they are saving for retirement. The survey found that habitual savers are better prepared for retirement compared to those who are not.

Fifty-one percent of homemakers, both globally and in the U.S., do not have any sort of strategy for retirement – written or unwritten. What is more concerning is that few have a written retirement strategy (11 percent globally, 8 percent US).

“Clearly, it is difficult for homemakers to save given the unpaid nature of their work. However, homemakers are not off the hook for their future retirement. Getting into the habit of saving, even if it’s just a little bit, along with careful planning, may help homemakers improve their long-term prospects,” says Collinson.

Five Ways to Improve Homemakers’ Retirement Outlook

Homemakers can take proactive steps to improve their retirement outlook. Governments, employers, and the retirement industry can also play an important role by offering new solutions to help homemakers and their families to save, invest, plan, protect, and achieve financial security in retirement. TCRS offers these five recommendations:

1. Homemakers. Become personally involved in your family finances ranging from daily budgeting to long- term planning. Working with your spouse or partner, calculate retirement savings needs and develop a financial plan for achieving those needs. As part of that plan, be sure to have a backup plan for unforeseen circumstances such as separation, divorce, or loss of a partner. Consider seeking the expertise of a professional financial advisor.

2. Homemakers. Consider working on a part-time basis to reduce future retirement risks. Part-time work brings income and greater access to government and employer retirement benefits. Staying in the work force can also help keep job skills current and make it easier to find higher paying and/or full-time work, if needed.

3. Employers.
Offer flexible work arrangements that can provide opportunities for homemakers to pursue employment and balance their household responsibilities.

4. Employers.
Consider offering health and welfare benefits, including retirement benefits, to part-time workers and contract employees.

5. Governments should consider the creation of credits for homemakers and caregivers who are unable to pay into their social security system, in recognition of their unpaid work and contribution to society.

Source: http://www.transamericacenter.org/

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.



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