Originally Aired: September 12, 2014
Topic: 7 Secrets for a Successful Retirement for Women, with Jan Cullinane
The Lange Money Hour: Where Smart Money Talks
James Lange, CPA/Attorney
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- Introduction of Author, Speaker and Consultant Jan Cullinane
- Married Women Have 80% Chance of Ending Up Single
- Married Women Shouldn’t Leave All Retirement Decisions to Husband
- Think of Retirement Planning as Lifetime Planning
- ‘Future Discounting’ and Doing What’s Pleasurable in the Now
- Women Have Been Taught to Be Selfless, Which Affects Retirement
- Taking a Non-Romantic Roommate Can Make Your Money Go Farther
- Social Support Is as Important as Money in Retirement
- Women Tend to Be More Deliberate in Retirement Planning
- ‘Do I Have Enough? Have I Had Enough? Do I Have Enough to Do?’
- Women Haven’t Been Taught to Fight for Themselves
Welcome to The Lange Money Hour: Where Smart Money Talks with expert advice from Jim Lange, Pittsburgh-based CPA, attorney, and retirement and estate planning expert. Jim is also the author of Retire Secure! Pay Taxes Later. To find out more about his book, his practice, Lange Financial Group, and how to secure Jim as a speaker for your next event, visit his website at paytaxeslater.com. Now get ready to talk smart money.
David Bear: Hello, and welcome to this edition of The Lange Money Hour, Where Smart Money Talks. I’m David Bear here in the KQV studio with Jim Lange, CPA-attorney and author of two best-selling books: Retire Secure! and The Roth Revolution: Pay Taxes Once and Never Again. There are over 25 million single women over age 45 in the U.S. today, and with women outliving men by almost five years, even most married women will someday be solely responsible for their financial futures. What do you need to know? On tonight’s Lange Money Hour, we welcome author, speaker, and consultant Jan Cullinane. Jan’s books include AARP’s The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement and New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life, which ranked Number 2 on both www.barnesandnoble.com and www.amazon.com. Frequently featured on TV, on the radio, and in many newspapers and magazines, Jan has addressed numerous national companies like Ford Motors, the Smithsonian Institution, and Wells Fargo Advisors. Listeners, since our show is live, Jim and Jan are available to answer your questions. To join the conversation, call the KQV studios at (412) 333-9385, and with that, I’ll say hello, Jim, and welcome, Jan.
Jim Lange: Welcome, Jan.
Jan Cullinane: Well, thanks! Glad to be on the show.
Jim Lange: Well, it’s great to have you. I think very highly of your book, and having the AARP endorse it is certainly a great thing. It’s the AARP’s Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement.
Jan Cullinane: Thank you.
Jim Lange: And one of the things that you talk about are some of the differences between planning for women, and, in particular, single women, than for men or married couples. Can you be a little bit more specific in some of the things and some of the different ways that we should think about it and/or some of the specific recommendations that you sometimes give?
Jan Cullinane: Certainly, and as David had said at the beginning, when I talk about single women, I’m referring to the fact of being never married, widowed or divorced, and as he mentioned, even if you’re happily married now, there’s an 80 to 90 percent chance that you will end up being single at some point. So, although the book is The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement, if you’re a little bit forward-thinking, it probably is going to apply to you if you are female. As he mentioned, the difference in the age and the longevity is an important thing. But if you think about women and first of all, why is this demographic important, I kind of call it the “Five Ds,” as it was mentioned, 25 million single women over the age of 45 in the United States, and if we take a look at it, I say it’s the Five Ds that are contributing to this growth. So, it is a very important demographic.
When you think about the death of a spouse, for example, and again, because women outlive men by an average of five years, when we think of divorce, and that 25 percent of divorces are between couples over 50, when we think about women delaying marriage, men as well, the average age now is going up, when I think about women in a relationship either dumping the guy or the guy dumping the woman, being either dumped or doing the dumping, and my fifth D about, the paradigm is sort of changing. A lot of women just do not want to be married. It’s not kind of seen in the same high esteem as it used to be, so it’s a choice. So, when we take a look at that, and then when we combine that with the thought that women are in and out of the workforce much more often than men are, women are, in general, although this is starting to change now, lower-paying positions, that women often take on the caregiving duties more so than men, that women earn, on average, about $0.81 compared to what men make, that women will probably have to work a lot longer because they are living a lot longer. These are all reasons why single women, in particular, really need to think about retirement even much more carefully than men in a lot of cases.
Jim Lange: Well, before we even get to the single-women issue, I was very glad to hear you bring up the idea of, let’s say, women who are currently married, they really have to do some thinking, and I will tell you some of the pet peeves that I have in practice. This just happened the other day. A guy came in and he had made an election for his pension. He was going to get ‘X’ dollars per month every month for the rest of his life, ‘X’ amount per year every year for the rest of his life, and then, if he died, his wife was only going to get half of what he was going to get, and I was thinking, “Well, all right, if you’re going to do that, then what you should do is buy some life insurance, because that way, that will make up for the income that you are losing if you die,” and he didn’t have any life insurance. Then, to add, let’s say, more bad news, he decided to take Social Security early that will forever reduce the benefits that he, and then if he dies, his wife, will get. So, his wife potentially, if he dies even relatively early or even if he makes it into his 70s or beyond, she will not get the full pension. She’ll get, let’s say, roughly half, and then she’ll get a significantly lower amount for her Social Security every month, and let’s say she survives him by five, 10, 15, 20 years, she’ll get significantly less every month because of the decision that supposedly they made together, but, in reality, he made. So, I almost wanted to just shake him, and frankly, shake her, and say, “You can’t just blindly listen to him because he’s traditionally done the money in the family. This is as important, or probably more important, for you.” So, I was glad to hear you say that even the single-women issue should be taken into account even if you’re married.
Jan Cullinane: Well, thanks, and I like you used that word sort of “lifetime,” and I do like that phrase of talking about lifetime planning rather than talking about retirement planning. Again, I think sometimes we sort of discount the future, but if we think sort of lifetime planning, and you were talking about the food on the table and all of that, I always think holistically and my books are holistic. I do talk about the money, but I think we need to look in terms of what do we want to do for lifetime planning in terms of wealth, certainly, our money, but also in terms of health, in terms of personal enrichment, in terms of relationships, perhaps spirituality, if that applies to you, that we need to think holistically what are our goals in each of those areas and how best are we going to accomplish them. Money certainly does help and knowing that you’re going to not outlive your money is a great way to help fill in all those other blanks in those other areas, as well.
Jim Lange: Well, to be fair, I usually talk about money on the radio show, but to be fair, your book actually has a lot more than money in it. You’re talking about some of the psychological aspects of retirement, such as what are you going to do during your free time, what about travel, what about a part-time job, what about working at home? Then, you have a lot of … well, in a guy’s phrase, they would call it “balls,” but you talk about dating and divorce. So, it’s well beyond a, let’s call it, money guide. It’s really money and more.
Jan Cullinane: I like that! I like the alliteration there, “money and more.”
Jim Lange: It really is. All right, so, let’s go back though. So, I think that we are in agreement that when you are married, that a lot of the decisions that are made are really for both members of the couple and not just one, and I really don’t like to see people with single-life pensions or even just a drastic reduction for the surviving spouse, and unless you’re going to, let’s say, do life insurance on top of that, but I really don’t think that that’s a … and by the way, when you run the numbers, we usually find that you’re better off taking a two-life rather than a one-life and life insurance. So, some of these issues, they don’t seem like they’re really women issues, but they are.
Jan Cullinane: They are, and it’s interesting because they found that women often do like to talk with other women about these things, as well in smaller kinds of groups. Sometimes, I think the man, like you, say, the husband, they just feel that he’s the expert in this area and they’re go along with them, whereas if you get a group of women together in a room, it’s very interesting, kind of, the topics. Its sort of no holds barred, and you hear things that are very enlightening as well, but to your point, if you are married, absolutely you need to be looking at how this is going to affect you because you probably are going to outlive your spouse and you’re 100 percent right about all of that.
Jim Lange: Well, I have to admit you perked up my ears when you said, “Well, what women really talk about in a room,” and I have to admit that it would be very interesting to be a fly on the wall and hear some women talk about a number of their issues.
David Bear: Can you suggest some ways that women might get together with other women locally to have these kinds of discussions?
Jan Cullinane: Well, one thing is, I have done a few talks for all women’s groups, and whether it’s for a financial-services firm, whether it’s for, in one case, it was a bank, whether it was for, at one point … oh, I’m trying to think of where else I have done just all women’s groups, sort of a church setting where they had hired me to talk as well, and just sort of discussing all of these things, again, holistically, but I do have to say money comes up a lot, and women are often the first to say, I mean, some do certainly pay all the bills and do all of that, but when it comes to things like investing, when it comes to things like that long-term planning, they feel uncertain. I mean, it would be like me if I cut myself and I wanted to suture myself. I would feel totally out of my realm. I would go to a professional to do that. And a lot of women, I think, maybe that it’s out of their ballpark as far as financially to get help doing that sort of thing. So, I think to let people know, it is possible wherever you are, you can get help if you need it, you can get advice. There are so many books, there are so many things on the internet, there are people such as yourself, able, willing, qualified to give that sort of advice, they need to avail themselves of it. A frequent thing I hear is they’re just not interested. However, they know they should be, they know it’s important, but it’s sort of the thing, “I’m going to get around to that later. I’m not going to worry about it now. Right now, I’m consumed with my job, I’m consumed with my children, I’m consumed with day-to-day life,” and thinking ahead out there 10, 20 years is difficult for many people, and that’s why I think if you talk about this lifestyle kind of planning instead of retirement, it does make it a little more immediate.
Jan Cullinane: I’m sort of into the whole area now of behavioral economics, and one of the big terms in there is called “future discounting.” We make decisions in the here and now, and psychologists call this being in a “hot state,” making a decision, whereas things way out in the distance, we might say, “Oh yeah, we’re going to do that, we’re going to do that,” but when it comes right down to it, we often pick, and this applies to men as well as women, what is the most pleasurable at the moment. They did this classic study and they asked people, “What do you want delivered to you one week from now? We could either deliver nice, fresh, crisp, delicious, healthy apples to you or some decadent chocolate.” And I know chocolate can be good for you. Let’s say this is the bad chocolate. So, when people were asked, “What do you pick to be delivered a week from now?” the great majority, over 70 percent, said, “Oh, send me the apples,” but when those researchers came in and they had an apple in one hand and they had the great chocolate in the other and said, “Hmmm, pick one, you can have one now,” then the same percentage, over 70 percent, took the chocolate then, and I think that all of the psychological things play so much into that decision-making. We tend to think in the here and now and thinking out 10, 20, 30 years is a difficult thing and we have to become more now-oriented.
David Bear: Well, speaking of being now-oriented, let’s take a quick break, and if you have comments or a question for Jim or Jan, call the KQV studios at (412) 333-9385.
David Bear: And welcome back to The Lange Money Hour. I’m David Bear here with Jim Lange and Jan Cullinane, author of The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement. Listeners, you can join the conversation by calling KQV at (412) 333-9385. And speaking of that, we actually do have a listener’s question now. It’s been emailed in from Carole. So, I’m going to just read it on Carol’s behalf, and Jan may be able to help her.
Her question is: “Let’s say that a woman had financial accounts in joint ownership with her husband and he died. Can you discuss the pros and cons of her replacing her deceased husband’s name with a child’s on her financial accounts? Not as a beneficiary, but as an owner.”
Jim Lange: Jan, I’ll let you go first …
Jan Cullinane: And I’m going to hand that one to you, Jim.
Jim Lange: All right, well then, I’ll take it. Absolutely not, unless there’s a lot of money around. Here’s the problem. So, let’s say that you’re the surviving spouse, and let’s assume, for discussion’s sake, that the total estate is less than a million dollars, and let’s assume that that safe withdrawal rate, even on a 30-year retirement, is about 4 percent. We’ve had a bunch of calls on the safe withdrawal rate. So, that’s only $40,000, and that’s if you have a million dollars. Now, let’s say that you make what is potentially a big mistake in you add one or a combination of your children’s names on that account, and let’s say one of your children has a problem. If they die, you have to pay inheritance tax on your own money. Much more common is they will have a creditor problem, and it is possible that some of that money will be lost to creditors. And by the way, who is the most likely creditor? Their future ex-husband or wife.
So, if that person, the caller, said, “Hey, should I put my son or my daughter on,” well, if they do that and then their son or daughter gets a divorce, then the divorcing party, or the spouse of the child of the person who just put their child’s name on the account is subject to significant reduction. I am not a fan of doing joint names. Now, maybe later on, let’s say you have a situation where costs are pretty well-known and you’re not looking at a 30-year life expectancy, you’re looking at a five-year life expectancy, and the child’s the primary caretaker and caregiver. That might be different. But, in general, I am not a big fan of putting joint names on a surviving spouse’s accounts, and one of the things that concerns me is I think that … and particularly, this goes for advisors, you have to consider who your client is. When I’m in there with a husband and a wife, the husband and the wife are my clients, not just the supposed decision-maker that might be the husband. So, that’s why I was so unhappy with the situation with the single pension and reduced Social Security. I would say the same thing here. I have to represent the spouse, not the child. The child’s not coming in. The child’s not paying the fee. I’d say keep it in your own name.
Jan Cullinane: One thing I advocate is thinking about where you presently live. Is it something where do you have all the pieces in place? Do you have your social support? Do you have good medical care where you are? Do you have something that, as you age, are going to be able to age in your home? Do you have universal design features incorporated into your home? If you take a look, and you’re single, and you’re looking as to where you live now, is there somewhere you could move in the vicinity and, say, get some equity out of your house, move somewhere else that’s less expensive and make your money last longer?
Close to half of mature women in an AARP survey said they were willing to have a non-romantic roommate. That would be a way to make your money perhaps last as long as you do. Staying healthy is another way. So many diseases, so many of our health-care costs go to lifestyle issues. So, if you’re looking for a magic number, there certainly are lots of ways to estimate, some are a multiple of your income now, that you can come up with a number, but another way is to look very differently at it and say, “Well, what kind of changes could I make?” Are you living below your means now, and take a look at those sorts of things also and see, “Can I live if money is tight?” One woman in my book gave a fabulous example. She goes from place to place and volunteers, where they pay for her lodging and pay for her food. She just has to get there. In between these stints, she actually stays with her son and daughter-in-law in a bedroom in between, but basically, she is living on her Social Security alone getting her around. So, there a lot of creative ways where you may want to maintain the same lifestyle you have now, but if not, there’s some other things you can do to adjust if you feel you’re not going to have enough money.
Jim Lange: Well, I also have my own viewpoint on that, and I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but planning to live with your son and daughter-in-law and then at the mercy of people who you hire, doesn’t sound like … I mean, it sounds like it’s working for her and that’s great. The other thing that you mentioned, with the calculators, I think the calculators are fine. The problem, I think, sometimes with the calculators is people don’t know what’s behind the calculators. So, I’m going to try to give a quantitative piece of advice and, let’s say, a more mathematical way of looking at it. I think that it really depends on how much money you need to spend, and let’s use a concrete example.
Let’s assume that your normal expenses are somewhere around $35,000 a year, including taxes, but even if they are $35,000 a year, every once in a while, you’re going to have years where you need to spend more. If you own a house, at some point, you’re going to have a roof problem. You’re going to have a furnace problem. Even if you don’t, at some point, you’re going to need a new car. There might be a family expense. Plus, I always want to be conservative, so I’ll think, “OK, let’s say we need $40,000,” and let’s assume, for discussion’s sake, that Social Security is $20,000. So now, we need $20,000 from the portfolio, and let’s just use the old rule of thumb, a 4 percent safe withdrawal rate on a 30-year retirement. So, if you had a $500,000 portfolio, you multiply that times 4 percent, that’s $20,000. So, you have $20,000 from your portfolio and $20,000 from Social Security and you could make it on the $40,000. But if you only have $225,000, and you’re 64 years old and you’re thinking about whether you should retire, the answer is no. You’d better keep working. I don’t know if that sounds fair or not, but I think that, again, and I like the way that you call it not retirement planning, but lifetime planning, I think that both men and women, but especially women, have to think about this kind of thing, and I actually taught a course for divorce attorneys and it was for divorce over 50, and the bar association that hired me actually had pre-done a course and I was just supposed to teach that course, and it was all kinds of things that I didn’t think were very relevant, like taking money out of an IRA before 59½. The way I look at it, if you’re taking money out of an IRA before 59½, you’re broke at 70. And I wanted to look at other issues like, well, does it make sense for a woman to try to get the house and her husband to retain the 401(k)? And I was arguing no, it’s the opposite. I want the spouse, and particularly, the non-working spouse, to get the liquid assets, and I think that you have to think about these things. My approach, of course, is a quantitative approach, a running the numbers type of approach, but I think that, Jan, some of your issues were, well, maybe you don’t need to maintain your lifestyle. Maybe you can find alternative accommodation, you know, whether it’s with a roommate. I know somebody who’s going down to Costa Rica to retire because they can retire on less money. So, it is an individual thing.
Jan Cullinane: Right, and by all means, looking at what you need now, feeling out your expenses, like you say, replacing the roof, replacing the refrigerator, doing all that, calculating that, what are you going to need to live? Those are all straightforward. That’s the excellent advice. You can come out, you can project a number and come out with it.
But it’s just sometimes a way of thinking a little differently because two people can live more cheaply than one, and I know of at least four instances where two sisters are living together and their spouses have passed away, or people move somewhere. Single women are the second largest group of homeowners, and builders are aware of this and are building more women-centric homes, and they’re often having two master (bedrooms), for example, knowing that, hey, you might bring your social support group with you, and you could have two people living in a home with universal design and you can share those expenses. So, it’s not in place of; it’s just another way of thinking, well, what are some alternative ways if I’m willing to consider them? A woman who volunteers, that would not be for me. I wouldn’t be living with my daughter and son-in-law between stints, but like you said, for her, she thought that was a great way to be able to live on minimal money. She was barely there with her son, and thought it was kind of an ingenious way of doing things.
David Bear: And having different experiences.
Jan Cullinane: That’s another thing.
Jim Lange: And the other thing that I think is interesting, people do have interesting alternative lifestyles. I have some clients, they’re actually three women. In their own words, they got rid of their husbands, as if it was like a pest or a disease that you have to get rid of, and now, they have several residences, some of them own it together and some of them own it separately, but they’re basically living together, vacationing together, sharing their lives in what I believe to be a non-sexual relationship, and having a good time, and frankly, they are enjoying some of the economies of scale of living with other people.
8. Social Support Is As Important as Money in Retirement
Jan Cullinane: And you know, there’s the whole trend of co-housing now, where you do share, you’ll have a common house, for example, where you can share meals. You still have your own individual home, but there’s joint decision-making. People come up with the rules themselves. They run their little community on their own, and this is a great thing for social support because I think that that’s something that we have to look at, not only the finances but also social support. I mean, if we were going to look at what makes a successful retirement, besides having enough money, one of the biggest things is you have to have that social support. Who’s going to be taking care of you? Now, again, maybe if you’re married, chances are you’re going to outlive your spouse, but you need to think about those issues down the line as well. So, a lot of people have chosen these co-housing communities. There are hundreds of them popping up all over the United States where you live in a group, you have shared values, shared decision-making, and that idea is you’ve got that social support right there because where you’re living now, you might find people are starting to leave, moving away, perhaps passing away, and so where are you going to get that social support? You might have it now, but again, thinking into 10, 20, 30 years from now, where’s it going to come from?
Jim Lange: All right, and in case we get cut off, because we are approaching the end, the book is AARP’s Single Women’s Guide to Retirement, by Jan Cullinane. Jan, you earlier alluded that you are a student or an expert in behavioral economics, and I can attest, both things that I’ve read and seen in practice, that there are certain differences between men and women investors, and one area where women actually exceed men and do better as investors is because they tend to take more time in arriving at a particular investment or even an investment strategy, they will do a higher degree of due diligence. I know, for us, getting a single woman or a widow on board is usually frankly more work and more time and has a higher trust threshold than maybe a couple or a single man, but then once they’re there, then it’s done. So, they are more thoughtful in making decisions, and then, but once there, they don’t buy and sell and buy and sell and do all types of things that a lot of men do, that end up actually hurting them. So, that’s one difference that I have noticed.
Jan Cullinane: And I like how you said that. You said that in a very positive way, because a lot of times, it’s said women are more risk-averse. But I like the way you said it, and women do tend to ask a lot more questions. Now men, whether they don’t because they feel they’ll look more foolish, or not as well schooled in it, is sort of an interesting thing, and I think the other thing, again, is the socialization, that growing up, for example. One expert, Tahira Hira from Iowa State University, has found that as women grow up, they’re taught more about budgeting and saving, not that that’s a bad thing, than really more learning about stocks and bonds and estate planning that men may be exposed to more. So, I think you actually hit that on the head that women do have a different approach to it, more thoughtful, more questions, taking their time more. You have to invest a little more time in them, no pun intended, but it’s certainly well worth it.
Jim Lange: And the other thing is, they’re not necessarily trying to win. They’re not trying to do better than their neighbor. They’re not necessarily trying to beat the market. And this might sound a little bit self-serving, but when we do workshops for index investing, which basically have outperformed active managers by, in at least one study, 97 percent of the index advisors outperformed the active advisors. So, you’re not saying, “OK, I’m going to try to beat the market. I’m going to be the market,” and I think some of these strategies are intuitively preferred by women, where the man might say, “Oh, I want to be with the hottest manager,” and then when that doesn’t work out, they change and then they go to somebody else, and when that doesn’t work out, they change, or maybe even worse yet, make some of these investment decisions on their own, where sometimes the woman investor is more thoughtful, more cautious about going in, but once they decide on a strategy, and again, I’m obviously an advocate of the index strategy, and I would say that for a man or a woman, but particularly if you didn’t have the problem of an ego trying to beat the market, so to speak, that this is really the very good way to go, and then not keep changing ships each time the wind blows.
Jan Cullinane: You’re absolutely right, and one study even showed when they surveyed women that four out of five really wanted more of the safety and security of income for life, and they weren’t as concerned about how the market was performing, to your point, the index funds, they’re really looking for some security.
Jim Lange: Well, I think that that’s important, and there are some financial products, but I think both men and women have to be a little bit careful about those, that sometimes supply a lifetime income. Again, I tend to favor the low-cost, low- or no-commission, and rather you pay the money manager a fee rather than a commission, but I think sometimes the index funds and something that is geared towards lasting for your entire life, and not trying to hit the home run, but just making sure that there is sufficient money to maintain lifestyle is very important, and sometimes, men are a little bit riskier by nature.
Jan Cullinane: Absolutely.
Jim Lange: So, there really are behavioral differences. You know, we only have actually a couple of minutes left, and there’s a couple of things that I did want to get to. I think that you have a couple, let’s say, tips for women to prepare for retirement, and then things that they could do once they are retired. So, if you could perhaps give us a few insights on a couple things that women could do to prepare for retirement and some of the things they could do to maximize their income when they are retired.
Jan Cullinane: Well, one thing, I think, as far as preparing for retirement, I always like to say people should ask themselves these three questions if they’re even thinking about retiring: Do I have enough? Have I had enough? Do I have enough to do? So, do I have enough obviously is the money aspect. Have I had enough? Are you ready to move on to explore new areas, whatever they might be and leave what you’re currently doing? And do you have enough to do, because think about it. Even if you have the money, you have 168 hours a week that you have to meaningfully use. So, it’s important to make sure you have something you’re retiring to and not from.
Another point I’d say would be negotiation. If you have not negotiated your very first salary, and research has shown this, that by the time you have gone through your career, you would have about a half a million dollars less that you would’ve earned over that time than somebody who had negotiated a first salary. When you think about that from the get-go, it makes a huge difference. Now, maybe you’re nearing the end of your working career, so that’s not going to apply to you, but if you have children or grandchildren, I’d say that that’s an important thing women need to do. They’ve done surveys, and women see negotiating as more like going to the dentist; men compare it to a baseball game. So, a lot of that again, talking about behavior and what’s in your mind, it’s an attitude and how we approach it. So that’s something I think that’s important because it can be learned, negotiations.
Jim Lange: Well, as a matter of fact, there is a very good book. It happens to be by one of my clients, and it’s called Women Don’t Ask, by Linda Babcock.
Jan Cullinane: Exactly, Linda Babcock, that’s the research I’m citing about not negotiating the first salary. It’s a terrific book.