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Why women should include long-term care in their retirement strategy

While women’s participation in the workforce continues to increase, they are also more likely than men to be caregivers, with 60 percent of women in the U.S. providing care to loved ones. As a result, women are more likely to suffer the impacts that caregiving can have on their career and retirement. This contributes, along with other key factors, to why women are more likely to benefit from creating a long-term care strategy.
 
Women have a greater likelihood of needing long-term care and in some cases have had a personal experience with someone who has needed care. But it’s not surprising that in the midst of juggling a variety of responsibilities, creating a stategy for their own future care can get pushed further down the priority list. Taking the time to prepare in case of a long-term care event can be essential to help protect themselves and their families.
 
Here are some important reasons why women should include long-term care when preparing for retirement:

Women typically have lower retirement incomes than men. 

Women today often don’t have as much retirement savings as men, which means they’re more likely to outlive their savings. They may have experienced the pay gap and/or spent time outside the workforce to care for children and family members, which reduced their overall earnings. Additionally, women on average spend more on health care costs in retirement than men. Even with a spouse, joint retirement funds can be drained since men often need care first, which can leave little money for their spouse’s care in the future.

Women live longer than men.

Added longevity can be a great thing, but it can also create some difficult circumstances for many women. They’re more likely to need assistance with activities of daily living and typically need long-term care services for longer periods of time than men. The average duration of care for women is 3.7 years, compared to 2.2 years for men.2 In addition, women often may not have anyone to take of them later in life if they outlive their spouse, are divorced, never marry, or live far away from family.

Women are the primary caregivers in our society.

The impact caregiving can have on women’s lives is substantial. Caregiving is one of the driving causes of poverty among older women, since they’re more likely to take significant time out of the workforce and have a loss of wages.3 As caregivers, women spend more time providing care and handle the most difficult tasks, like bathing and dressing. They are also more likely to develop their own health problems as a result of juggling work, family, and caregiving.
 
Having a strategy to help pay for a long-term care event can provide some relief if a need arises. It can help provide assurance that loved ones won’t be solely responsible for providing necessary care and can help address some of the costs. Having long-term care coverage can also help provide peace of mind knowing that those hard-earned retirement funds may be protected. 

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2 "How Much Care Will You Need?" U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, February 2020.

 “Older Women and Poverty,” Justice in Aging, December 2018.