A quick glance at how women have been portrayed on TV in the past 50 years reveals a significant change in their roles and identities. From Barbara Billingsley, the pearl-and-white-gloved mother on “Leave It to Beaver” to Linda Lavin and Mary Tyler Moore (just to name two) portraying career women to today’s crop of actresses playing everything from an ex-IRA operative (Gabrielle Anwar in “Burn Notice”) to a police detective and medical examiner duo (Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander in “Rizzoli & Isles”), the message is that women have stepped far beyond their homemaker roles.
And in many cases, due to choice or circumstances, they are making their life journey without a partner—about 51%, according to some studies. There are almost 15 million households led by single women in the United States, and close to three-fifths have children under 18. Independent? Yes. But with that independence comes an increased need to plan for life events that are challenging enough with a partner but can be overwhelming when faced alone.
Life and Long-Term Care Insurance
While life insurance is critical for single mothers who might otherwise leave their children without financial resources, even those women without children should consider some type of life insurance—either term or permanent. Depending on the type and benefits, life insurance can replace the financial support that may have been provided to other family members (an aging parent or disabled sibling, for example) or pay off any of her remaining debts after she dies. While the policy cost will be affected by the type and benefit amount, it’s interesting to note that most consumers assume the price of life insurance to be far higher than reality.
Long-term care is an expensive proposition. According to the Genworth 2012 Cost of Care Survey, rates start at $18/hour for in-home basic homemaker services and increase to $3,300/month for assisted living to more than double that for a private room in a nursing home. And it’s not just the elderly (those 75 and older) that may need it. According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, 37% of those who require some form of long-term care are 64 or younger.
Even if family members are available to help provide care, the cost can still be significant. According to the Genworth’s “Beyond Dollars” report, the average that recipients pay for out-of-pocket expenses (not including the cost of facility care) can reach $14,000/year, while family members spend another $8,000/year. Long-term care insurance can help defray the expense, and, for those single women without family members to call on, it can help relieve the worries of what will happen if they are no longer able to care for themselves due to accident or illness.
The statistics are sobering: The average age of disabled-worker beneficiaries was 53 in 2010, and almost a quarter of people would have financial trouble immediately if they couldn’t work and earn a paycheck, while half would have trouble in just a month, according to a LIFE Foundation survey.
For women on their own, the impact of even a short-term disability could be devastating. Unable to rely on their partner to provide an income, they could find their savings depleted and their future (and that of any dependents who rely on them) in jeopardy. Given that the majority of accidents are not work-related, women need to take proactive measures such as purchasing disability insurance to protect themselves, their assets and their future.
Retirement used to be called “the golden years” but with the increase in health-care costs and the decrease in value of most investments, the “gold” is more than a little tarnished, and women especially are worried about what the future might hold. According to the 2010 Wells Fargo Retirement Fitness Survey, about 40% of women have less access to defined benefit plans, while 58% worry that they haven’t saved enough for their retirement. As for relying on Social Security, 30% of women plan to wait until age 66 or older to apply. Compared with their male counterparts, they have far less confidence in the stock market, or, for that matter, their own ability to save enough to make the years ahead appear anything less than challenging.
For single women, it can be even more difficult, since they may only have their own pension, retirement funds or Social Security check to depend upon. Taking a proactive approach by meeting with a retirement planning specialist is a critical first step to planning for the years ahead.
Woman have proven themselves capable of handling a variety of life roles and responsibilities—from raising children to succeeding in the workplace. Evaluating their needs and putting key strategies in place is one more empowering step that all women—married or single, with or without dependents—need to take to secure their future.