Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 29th 2014 Contents SBG6 NEWS
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JUNE 29 • 2014
Last week, the Sunday Business
Guardian featured a CNBC arti-
cle on women and the challenges
they face at retirement. The
piece found that women were
more likely to retire less com-
fortable than men simply because they were
unable to save or invest as much throughout
their careers and were more likely to outlive
their pensions. The following reasons were
• Statistically, women just live longer than
men. On average, there is a life span difference
of five to 10 years favouring women. (Time,
• Women were likely to work at least 12
years less than men owing to the fact that
they took time off to take care of young children
and retired earlier to care for elderly parents
• Women were more likely to pursue
employment that helped with work/life bal-
• In the US, employers tended to offer fewer
employee benefits like pensions to women
who chose more flexible work arrangements.
• Even though the income gap between men
and women is closing in all sectors, men still
out earn women. The US Census Bureau placed
2012 median earnings for men at US$49, 398
versus US$37,791 for women.
• The number of single women, divorced
women and households headed by women is
growing in the US.
The article advised that women should be
setting up a safety net to cover their future
medical expenses. It also advised that women
adjust their savings/investment goals to reflect
their realities; if they had not retired yet, but
realised their expenses would likely outstrip
their income, they should work longer. If they
had already retired, downsizing their standard
of living was an option, as well as acquiring
higher risk, higher yield investments such as
stock as opposed to annuities.
So the questions arose: locally, are women
finding it harder to make ends meet during
What were the factors that applied to women
and their financial habits in the T&T context
and what steps could women take to protect
themselves from a decline in their post-retire-
ment standard of living?
The local situation
According to the 2013 CIA World Fact-
book, in T&T the average life expectancy for
a man is 74.1 years, for a woman, it is 78.1
years. Some estimates place this figure at 81
Dr Jennifer Rouse, director of the Division
of Aging in the Ministry of the People, said
that of the estimated 300 centenarians in
T&T, the majority are women.
In a population pyramid from the CIA site,
the generational cohorts 50-54, 55-59 and
60-64, or people at least 10 to 15 years away
from retirement represent one of the largest
segments in the country (See Pyramid). In
all three cohorts, women represent either
half or slightly more than half of the pop-
ulation. Over 65, women begin to outpace
men in longevity.
Dr Rouse also said more women---through
divorce, widowhood or unmarried---are head-
ing into their later years alone.
To add to this, local women are finding
themselves in the position Dr Rouse referred
to as the "sandwich generation."
Many of them were fully occupied and
stood the financial cost of care for their eld-
erly, but were also finding themselves having
to meet the needs of their growing or uni-
versity-aged children, leaving few opportu-
nities for them to save for their retirement,
What women can do to protect
Sharon Christopher, deputy CEO at the First
Citizens Bank, said despite the fact that many
professional women earn more than their part-
ners, women were still relying on men to
handle household finances.
"Even in today's world, there are a lot of
women who don't know how much their house
is mortgaged for. Their name is on the mortgage
deed, but they don't know if it is being paid.
Women need to take more responsibility for
Part of taking responsibility, Christopher
said, was starting to think about retirement
from the first day of work. She advised women
to have a plan for their money.
"You always make sure that you have emer-
gency funds. You put a certain amount into
investments and a certain amount into sav-
Christopher also thought women needed
to become better negotiators during their work
lives. When coming to salaries for equivalent
positions in the professional world, she said
as a rule, men tended to ask for what they
wanted, while women asked for what they
thought they deserved.
"Women don't place the same value on
themselves and don't think they deserved bet-
She has a fairly unorthodox solution. When
negotiating compensation packages, Christo-
pher told women: "Ask men (in similar fields).
If you do not know someone you feel com-
fortable asking, add 20 per cent to your asking
The First Citizens executive also acknowl-
edged that women were far more risk adverse
than men, which caused them to gravitate
toward safer investment instruments and not
to the ones that could actually earn higher
returns. She said women must be in the mind-
set of thinking how best to create wealth for
One way to do this would be to acquire
multiple skills that they can leverage to improve
one's financial position.
She illustrated the point by drawing reference
to women who made their living through
administrative skills while working profes-
sionally, but turned to baking goods for sale
on retirement. Even when working formally,
a woman could have alternate streams of
income, which ultimately would help build
her nest egg for retirement.
Christopher herself has already taken several
steps to ensure the security of her own retire-
ment, which she told the Sunday Business
Guardian was mandatory at the bank at age
60.She said she has no significant debt and is
planning to launch herself into her second
career, what she described as her "true passion"
that of leadership development for women.
Dr Rouse also admitted she was into her
She left the pensions department of BWIA
as an assistant accountant after decades of
service and moving up the ranks in 1995. She
then went on to do her Bachelor's degree in
Research Work and Africana Studies at age
44 and was able to complete her Masters and
PHD in Public Policy, within the next eight
She urged women to take care of their health.
She said women's lifestyles had become
increasingly sedentary. She said this led to an
increase in chronic non-communicable diseases
like diabetes and hypertension, which were
expensive to both the State and the individual
and the double x
DR JENNIFER ROUSE
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