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Women face higher risk of poverty in retirement

Sarah Justin's three young boys keep her busy.

"Feeding, clothing, cleaning," she said.

Add full time job on top of that, and the mother quickly shifted her priorities.

"It was just unmanageable," she said. "Something had to give."

So she stopped working as a CPA, and in 2012, started a small business that uses legos to teach kids about science and engineering.

Now, she can be flexible for her husband's career, take care of her kids and still generate an income. Justin also works as a part-time accountant for a local firm.

"I think women it's our nature to be self-giving and to care for others," Justin said. "So we spend a lifetime caring for others, but not for ourselves."

That way of living can add up to disaster.

Research shows women make less money than men, yet live longer, and can end up holding an empty bag of cash for themselves.

"I think it's really sad that's true," said Emily Holbrook with Northwestern Mutual.

Numbers show more older women live in poverty in retirement, 12 to seven percent, nearly double that of men. But this fate can be avoided.

Holbrook said it all comes down to planning, which can be hard for women who are uncomfortable talking about money.

"We often talk about how competence really breeds confidence and for women in particular, having that knowledge will help make them feel comfortable to take action," she said.

If you haven't already, Holbrook said start saving today. It's the first step to financial security.

"Start as small as you need to," she said. "Maybe that's one percent of your income and then get in the habit, automate those payments and continue growing that overtime."

If your company has a 401k match, take advantage. Holbrook said that's free money. Options outside of work include stocks, mutual funds and IRAs, complicated concepts a financial adviser can help clear up.

"They can really help you understand how to save for short, mid and long term goals," Holbrook said.

Each woman's goals are different. Some want to have a career, others want be a stay-at-home mom or be able take care of their aging parents.

So know what you want and customize a plan that gives you the flexibility to make those choices.

Justin hopes she's on track to a secure retirement. Sacrificing the now for the later isn't easy, but she understands it has to be done.

"No one's going to take care of you but you," Justin said.

There is no one-size-fits-all formula on how much to save for retirement. So to get your plan started, visit the Northwestern Mutual learning center, to find informational videos, brochures and tools to make sure your money lasts as long as you do.

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