14:47 PM

Nationwide Survey: Women Age 50 and Older Fear Becoming a Burden to Their Families More So Than Men

Columbus, OH - The majority of women 50 and older in America keep their biggest retirement concern to themselves – the fear of becoming a health care or long-term care responsibility to their families. However, trying to keep loved ones from worrying is causing bigger problems.

“For many families, the job of caregiver typically goes to mom,” said Shawn Britt, director of long-term care initiatives, advance consulting group at Nationwide. “After all, being a nurturer is in our DNA. But for many women it is difficult to discuss how the role of caregiver might be reversed when it comes our time to need help.”

According to a Nationwide Retirement Institute survey of 709 women and 582 men aged 50 or older, two-thirds of these women (66 percent) are worried they will become a burden to their family as they get older (compared to 50 percent of men). And 78 percent of these women say they are concerned about having money to cover long-term care (LTC) expenses.

Despite these concerns, the online survey conducted in the fall by Harris Poll on behalf of Nationwide reveals six in 10 women aged 50 or older (62 percent) haven’t talked to anyone about long-term care costs. Of women with a spouse or women with at least one child, the most common reason they aren’t talking with these loved ones about health care costs in retirement is they don’t want them to worry (43 percent and 62 percent, respectively).

“The sacrifice women make for their families at the expense of their health and finances does not come cheap,” Britt said. “Many women spend much of their lives taking care of others, giving up earned income and benefits which makes planning for long-term care so much more important. But not talking about long-term care now can do more harm than good to their family later. Families need to be aware of what they will face if they do not plan ahead for this risk – both emotionally and financially.”

Despite their aversion to talking about LTC, the survey reveals that among women aged 50 years or older:

  • 67 percent say they would rather die than live in a nursing home
  • 73 percent prefer to get LTC in their own home, but only 51 percent think they will
  • 64 percent say they are “terrified” of what health care costs may do to their retirement plans
  • 47 percent are willing to give all their money to their children so they could be eligible for Medicaid-funded LTC

Have the talk

The average life expectancy for women is 86, with one in four reaching age 92.1 Longevity increases the chance of needing LTC services during their golden years. That’s why it’s especially important for women to include planning for LTC costs in retirement.Despite few women 50 or older (9 percent) having discussed LTC costs with a financial advisor, 57 percent of those who have discussed retirement with a financial advisor plan to discuss LTC costs with them.

“The good news is more than half of these women say they plan to have these discussions,” said Roberta Eckert, vice president of the Nationwide Retirement Institute. “Financial advisors can play a major role in helping women plan for and live in retirement by providing a fact-based estimate of their long-term care costs and setting up plan to pay for those costs.” 

To simplify this complicated issue and encourage discussions around health care costs in retirement, Nationwide’s Personalized Health Care Assessment (PDF) uses proprietary health risk analysis and updated actuarial cost data such as personal health and lifestyle information, health care costs, and medical coverage to provide a meaningful, personalized cost estimate that will help advisors and clients plan for future medical and LTC expenses.

Women can also visit www.nationwide.com/womenandinvesting for additional retirement planning resources.


This survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of The Nationwide Retirement Institute between September 23, 2015 to October 1, 2015, among 1,291 U.S. adults age 50 or older including 709 females and 582 men. This survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. 

About Nationwide

Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the United States. Nationwide is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. An industry leader in driving customer-focused innovation, Nationwide provides a full range of insurance and financial services products including auto, business, homeowners, farm and life insurance; public and private sector retirement plans, annuities and mutual funds; excess & surplus, specialty and surety; pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. For more information, visit www.nationwide.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

[1] CDC, National Vital Statistics Report, 2011