What every woman needs to know about retirement by the time she’s 30

After the turmoil of your quarter-life crisis has settled, and you’ve finally regained what feels like some semblance of control over your life, you may start considering things like career advancements and retirement. Which makes sense — it’s never too early to plan for a comfortable future. And the fact is, as you may already know, when it comes to retirement, there isn’t a leveled playing field, so it’s important as hell to arm yourself with information early. There are a few things every woman should know about retirement by the time she’s 30.

Over the years, women have been making great strides in the workplace. As it stands, more women graduate from college than men. Women also make up more than half of the management and professional workforce. But when it comes to finances, women are still facing a unique set of issues that may require a somewhat different approach to financial planning. Even when working in comparable jobs, women earn less than men. Overall, women ages 20 to 24 only earn 92 percent what men make. For women ages 55 to 64, that number is 76 percent, according to a 2016 report by the American Association of University Women.

Women are also more likely to work part-time or interrupt their careers to care for family members. And women more frequently prioritize other goals, such as paying for college over retirement savings. All this can combine to create savings gaps, which then contributes to a retirement gender gap.

So, how can a woman actually start taking steps towards securing her retirement before 30?

While talking to USA Today, Sandy Franks, executive director of wealth manager Contrarian Profits and publisher of Women’s Financial Edge, says, “The first thing I like to tell women when they are thinking about retirement is to think about what you want it to be. You have to start picturing that in your head.”

“Do you see yourself staying at home like your parents? Maybe you want to volunteer. Maybe you want to work part time. Maybe you want to pursue a hobby. Maybe you want to travel. They have to think about that retirement vision,” she continued.

Sure, this might seem like an obvious and simple part of the process but Franks says, “Unfortunately, it’s something that women don’t do enough.”

After you’ve taken the time to map out what you’d like your ideal retirement to look like, it’s time to do the research to find your options and make your dream retirement a reality when the time comes. “The most important thing you can do is to do your research on claiming Social Security,” says Laura Bos, manager of financial security at AARP.

“Women are in a different situation than men. Their financial situation could be riskier. They could have taken time out to care for a child or parent.

Knowing this, it is important to do everything you can to maximize your benefits. This may include waiting, and not taking benefits at 62 (even though you’re now eligible). This will pay off in the long run: The more time you wait before claiming, the higher the benefit. If you’re married by the time you’re ready for retirement, you may also want to take your spouse’s benefits if they are higher than your own. This might be the case when women end up taking time off from the workforce.

As we’ve previously mentioned, women live longer than men. On average, the life expectancy of a woman is 81 years; for a man, it’s 76 years. Sure, that’s mostly a good thing for women, but it could be somewhat problematic in retirement. It’s called the “longevity factor” and it’s also something women should keep in mind while planning for their retirement.

An average American woman will have 25 to 30 years in retirement.

“The average life span for women is 8% longer than for a man,” says Deana Arnett, senior planning consultant for Rosenthal Wealth Management Group. “For a woman who expects to retire at the same age as her male counterpart, they’re going to need more money.”

A great way to tackle this: Start saving now. Women should start saving and investing as soon as possible — the earlier you begin saving and investing, the more time your nest egg has the potential to grow. We know, we know, with your current responsibilities, saving a little extra for retirement may seem almost impossible, but we promise, it’ll be worth the sacrifice if you can swing it.

Try setting up automatic deductions from your paycheck to your 401(k) plan. That way, the money will be tucked away before you have the chance to spend it. If your company offers a match, try to contribute as much as you need to capture the full amount. You can also set up automatic transfers from your bank account into an IRA. Definitely explore your IRA possibilities, including an FDIC-insured savings IRA through Bank of America or an investment IRA through Merrill Edge.

According to a report by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, the income gap widens to 44 percent in retirement, with retired women receiving only 56 percent of what men of the same age do. Right now, more than 12 percent of women over the age of 65 — and almost 15 percent of women over 75 — live in poverty.

By age 75, women are twice as likely to live in poverty as men of the same age.

We know the numbers aren’t the best, but don’t be disheartened — you can still have financial security throughout your retirement with advanced planning. And there’s no time like the present.