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Should women save more for retirement than men?
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That's not usually a good decision. The better option is a joint-and-survivor annuity, which provides a lower monthly payout for the life of the plan participant, as well as a reduced payout, in the event of death, for the surviving spouse.

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"If you have the choice of taking a survivor benefit with your pension, it's a good thing to do," says Cindy Hounsell, executive director of the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement.

Maximize Social Security
It's not likely that Social Security will undergo significant reform this year, despite the Bush administration's push for it. Social Security reform will likely be of concern to the next administration, too. Regardless of what happens, the government pension is probably not something you can depend on completely, especially over the long term. But there are ways -- as of this writing -- to maximize your Social Security benefits.

"If you've been married for 10 years, you are entitled to either your own Social Security benefits or half of your husband's, whichever is greater," says Gadkowski. "And if your husband passes away, you're entitled to his whole Social Security benefits. Even if you haven't been working but have been married for 10 years, that's a benefit."

There might be ways to increase that, says Joseph, who sees most women taking half of their husbands' pension check. Women could work for 10 years to accrue the required 40 credits to increase their Social Security payout. "Making sure they get to that and even trying to maximize that payout as opposed to just defaulting and taking half of their husband's is an option," he says.

Prioritize
It's easy to get caught up in day-to-day living and neglect saving for your retirement, no matter how old you are. There always seems to be one more thing you need -- or want. But saving for retirement shouldn't be considered a luxury. "Women need to make sure they're prioritizing their savings," says Gadkowski, "even if they're not working."

For example, she says, spouses who are unemployed or working from home can contribute to a spousal IRA, funding it with money earned by the working spouse if necessary. "A lot of people think if they're not working, they don't have any options to save for retirement, but they do," she says.

 
 
Next: Investing can be a very intimidating prospect. ...
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