Here’s a quick exercise for women who are thinking of leaving the workforce long before retirement age or waffling about a return to work after time at home with family.
- Your own job loss
- Spouse’s job loss
- Inconsistent household income
- Disability of household’s major breadwinner
- Premature death of major breadwinner
- Financial support for 1 to 4 elderly parents who outlive their savings
- Long-term financial support for adult children in low-paying or erratic jobs
- Major illness in your immediate family and unreimbursed medical expenses
- Insufficient Social Security credits for benefits eligibility
- Inadequate savings for a retirement that could last 30 years or more
If one or more of these surprises are possible in your life, your risk index is high—and you may need to keep working—or find work that fits your life.
This is an exercise in my upcoming book, No Regrets: A Reality Check on Work, Motherhood and Long-Term Financial Security. I’ve thought of it many times recently—as two high-profile men died suddenly—in the prime of their careers. We’ve all heard about Sheryl Sandberg’s husband, Survey Monkey CEO Dave Goldberg, who died—at age 47—while exercising on a treadmill. Another man widely known in financial circles is Jimmy Lee, Vice Chairman of JPMorgan Chase—a 62-year-old who died suddenly after exercising as well. Both men (one would assume) knew the importance of exercise and the pursuit of good health. And both died far earlier than anyone would expect.
If a non-working woman who is married to an extremely successful man is suddenly widowed, chances are she has the cushion of great wealth to see her through the end of her own years. But the kind of wealth these two men amassed is a rarity. Few widows (even those in affluent communities) are left in the position of being unquestionably “set for life” from savings, investments or life insurance policies. And even fewer have high-powered careers, like Sheryl Sandberg, and enormous wealth of their own.
The premature death of a spouse is, however, just one of the life “you never knows” that women at every age and income level could face. No one should live waiting for calamities to happen, but financial security should also not be a roll of the dice. For all but very few uber affluent women, some form of paid work that fits your life is an insurance policy against many unexpected life twists and turns. —KAS
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