Homemakers Are Not Off the Hook: How Should They Be Planning for Retirement

It is a myth that only workers retire. Homemakers have just as great a need to prepare and plan for retirement.

Recent decades have witnessed major demographic and societal changes, transforming how people live their lives leading up to and through retirement. These changes, have affected families and working lives. With women and men in the labor force being the focal point of retirement security initiatives, homemakers are being overlooked with regard to their long-term financial security.

The 2015 Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey asked its respondents to identify their work status – as working full-time or part-time, fully- or semi-retired, self-employed, not working, student, or homemaker. This new report offers perspectives on the retirement outlook of 1,600 self-described homemakers spanning 15 countries around the world. It also exposes homemaker's retirement risks, identifies challenges and opportunities and offers recommendations for homemakers and their families, as well as employers, and policymakers.

The survey set out to learn more about homemakers along with their preparations for retirement. Globally, it found that most homemakers are:

  • Women (86 percent)
  • Married, cohabiting, or in a civil partnership (88 percent)
  • Aged 18 to 44 (59 percent)

A parent of one or more financially dependent children (69 percent)
Starting a family and raising children is a common reason for being a homemaker. The majority of homemakers, both women and men, are a parent to at least one child. They spend a lot of time with their children, often setting an example. By forming their own good financial habits, homemakers can positively influence and teach their children the importance of managing money and saving for the future.

Homemakers share similar dreams but are less optimistic about retirement than workers and retirees. When presented with a series of word associations about "retirement," globally, only 60 percent of homemakers cite positive word associations compared with 71 percent of workers and retirees.

Forty-eight percent of homemakers are not confident that they will be able to retire in a lifestyle they would describe as comfortable compared with 42 percent of workers. A possible reason for this lack of confidence is that 46 percent of homemakers "don't know" if they are on course to achieve the income they think they will need in retirement. For most homemakers, financial reliance on a spouse or partner continues through retirement. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of homemakers believe that their spouse or partner's income will be "very" or "extremely" important to them in retirement, compared to 41 percent of workers.

A homemaker's reliance on a spouse/partner for income, today and in retirement, may lead to a mindset of dependence or even abdication of responsibility for saving and planning for retirement. Compared to workers, homemakers are less likely to feel very responsible for undertaking retirement planning, and are also less likely to be actively saving for retirement.

What is more, most homemakers are not ready for retirement. Globally, two-thirds (67 percent) of homemakers achieved a low score in the Aegon Retirement Readiness Index, a percentage that rises even higher in some countries, such as Japan, where 81 percent of homemakers are found to be poorly prepared for their retirement. In stark contrast, only 52 percent of workers globally achieved a low Index score.

Eleven percent of homemakers have a written retirement strategy, a finding similar to that of workers. Of concern, is the sharp disparity between the percentage of homemakers and workers who say that they do not have any sort of plan for retirement. Currently, 51 percent of homemakers do not have a retirement strategy – written or unwritten

Homemakers can take proactive steps to improve their retirement outlook. Governments, employers, and the retirement industry can also play an important role by offering new solutions to help homemakers and their families to save, invest, plan, protect, and achieve financial security in retirement.

  1. Homemakers. Become personally involved in your family finances ranging from daily budgeting to long-term planning. Working with your spouse or partner, calculate retirement savings needs and develop a financial plan for achieving those needs. As part of that plan, be sure to have a backup plan for unforeseen circumstances such as separation, divorce, or loss of a partner. Consider seeking the expertise of a professional financial advisor.
  2. Homemakers. Consider working on a part-time basis to reduce future retirement risks. Part-time work brings income and greater access to government and employer retirement benefits. Staying in the work force can also help keep job skills current and make it easier to find higher paying and/or full-time work, if needed.
  3. Employers. Offer flexible work arrangements that can provide opportunities for homemakers to pursue employment and balance their household responsibilities.
  4. Employers. Consider offering health and welfare benefits, including retirement benefits, to part-time workers and contract employees.
  5. Governments should consider the creation of credits for homemakers and caregivers who are unable to pay into their social security system, in recognition of their unpaid work and contribution to society. See a comprehensive overview of risks homemakers face, implications and linked recommendations