Two-thirds of women between the ages of 40 and 79 have encountered a life crisis, be it a long-term unemployment, divorce, death of a spouse or a major illness or disability of someone in their household, AARP found. And with this, they encounter financial and emotional hardship.

AARP encourages women undergoing such stress to seek out counseling, and the organization itself offers free life crisis action plans and phone consultations.

“No one escapes the financial implications of a life crisis, but they are particularly acute for women,” noted Richard “Mac” Hisey, president of AARP Financial. "The demographic considerations are obvious: women outlive men, so they experience more life crises and deal with the consequences longer. But women also tend to be the caregivers. That means women are frequently dealing with the human and logistical consequences of a life crisis, leaving little time and energy for the financial considerations."

AARP found in a survey that 46% of women who had experienced the death of a spouse said it had a very significant impact on their finances, as opposed to only 17% of men. Among women who experienced long-term job loss, 66% said it had a very significant impact on their finances, as opposed to 49% of men.

“The findings relative to long-term job loss are particularly troublesome, given the state of the economy and the impact of job loss on women,” Hisey said.

In the case of divorce, 74% of women reduced their expenses, but only 59% of men did. Fifty-nine percent of women sold their home, as opposed to 44% of men, and 42% began working or took on a second job, compared to 21% of men.

Consequently, 61% of women said they are worried about the financial future, while only 52% of men have such worries. Fifty-two percent of women have less than $50,000 saved for retirement, while 28% of men have such low savings.

"The road to long-term financial security is already a difficult one for many women, and detours can emerge at any point along the way," Hisey said. "That's why planning for a life crisis and minimizing its financial impact are so important for achieving long-term financial security."

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