Fewer struck by 'younger wives' curse'

Young women today are in a better position to set themselves up for old-age financial security than their mothers and grandmothers.

A report released last month by Allianz Global Investors said that more women are now avoiding the "younger wives' curse" - the tendency for women to marry older men and hence place themselves at greater risk of spending retirement alone and in poverty.

The report said researchers investigating poverty had shown widowhood is the single biggest predictor of a fall in female income in later years.

"Social norms are changing and pensions are improving for women, so today's younger women appear better positioned to ensure their own financial security," said Ms Brigitte Miksa, head of international pensions at Allianz Asset Management.

Women born in the 1960s or later have been in the workforce longer and have lived through a time of greater equality at work, with greater opportunities to achieve economic independence.

In addition, they tend to marry later, and marry men closer to their own age.

Combined with the fact that women tend to live longer than men, "the economic downside of having been a younger wife falls disproportionately on the older generation of women", the report said.

However, the prospect of a longer life can increase the risk that women may outlive their assets.

"A woman today - married, unmarried or somewhere in between - is still well advised to look out for her own financial security," said Ms Miksa.

"Otherwise, they will be doing themselves a disservice in terms of their long-term future happiness."

In Singapore, women outlive men by 4.94 years from birth and 3.63 years from age 65, on average. The longevity gap at age 65 has widened slightly from 1950, when it was 3.5 years.

In 2010, Singaporean women were on average 2.5 years younger than their husbands when they first married. This difference has closed from 3.55 years in 1971.

In the same year, 50.3 per cent of all Singaporean women aged 65 and above were widowed.


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.