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When a woman tells you she’s worried about becoming a bag lady, she’s not talking about owning too many Louis Vuittons. Despite statistics that should be reinforcing our financial self confidence, (it’s estimated that in 2010 women will control 60% of the wealth in the U.S.) women worry far more than men about financial security in retirement.

Truth be told, women have some very good reasons to be concerned about their financial well-being in those golden years. We outlive men, on average, by about 5.2 years. In the U.S., the average life expectancy for women is 80.4 years and for men, 75.2. The average 65-year-old woman today can expect to live another 19.8 years or a total of 84.8 years. If she makes it to 75, she can expect an additional 12.6 years or a total of 87.6 years.

Recent studies show women have reasons to feel more secure. A 2006 study of women, money and power conducted for the Allianz Life Insurance Co by retirement guru Ken Dychtwald’s AgeWave consultancy, found that:

Women control 48% of estates worth more than $5 million

By 2010 it is estimated that women will control 60% of the wealth in the United States

In 2003, almost two million women earned more than $100,000, a four-fold increase in just a decade.

And 60% of women with business degrees and 75% of executive women working for Fortune 500 companies were out-earning their husbands.

Moreover, as alluded to above, it is estimated that women will control 60% of the wealth in the United States over the course of this year.

Why is it then, that poverty rates for women remain far higher than men’s among all age groups? Our longer life expectancy is actually one reason. The likelihood of outliving your money increases when your retirement lasts as long as, or longer than, 20 years, particularly if your nest egg has been set back by market losses over the last 18 months.

The Hartford, another insurance company that has researched the situation, delved more deeply into women’s concerns in its 2007 study of why women worry (about retirement). The results showed that women worried more about every category presented, (inflation, health, longevity, outliving resources) except one: Boredom! Worrying may be tiresome, but apparently, it’s never boring!

Jamie Ohl, senior vice president and director of the Retirement Plans Group for Hartford Life, a subsidiary of the Hartford Financial Services Group, finds that women’s naturally conservative investment tendencies may be another reason for their reduced circumstances. During the recent market downturn, she points out, “Women reacted by moving from their natural tendency towards a conservative position to a very conservative position. Conservative used to be 3-4%; now it’s 1%, which means that the worry of outliving their money becomes even greater.”

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