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Bengaluru-based Madhumati, who doesn’t use her second name, retired in April last year but has none of the financial challenges that women typically face. The 60-year-old doctor, who was with state-funded Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology, Bengaluru, is a specialist in blood cancer, and private hospitals are chasing her to work with them even after retirement. She also gets a pension from her government job. Being a doctor, she understands the healthcare-related expenses that she and her husband would need to bear in their senior years.

But most working women’s profiles are far different from hers. Regular income can become a challenge for women during retirement, especially if they are widowed, given that a lot of them remain home-makers for all or most of their lives and even those with their own sources of income never bother to save for themselves separately. Women tend to live longer than men and, therefore, need a bigger retirement corpus. However, their saving potential is hampered by the fact that many women face a wage gap--employers typically pay lower salaries to women compared to men for the same profile. Women also tend to be more conservative investors and stay away from instruments that can give them higher returns over time.

The generation that is close to retirement or has already retired had few investment options when they had started working. “For that generation, accumulating real estate was what systematic investment plan is for millennials," said Deepesh Raghaw, a Sebi-registered investment adviser based in Mumbai.

As a result, the portfolios of those who have already retired or are close to retirement are mostly heavy on real estate. Take Madhumati’s case. Soon after her marriage, she and her husband decided to invest in real estate for all their significant financial goals. They built houses for their sons but managed their finances in a way that they didn’t have to take home loans. The elder son, Rahul, 31, is married and works as a product manager with a start-up. The younger one, Gautam, 26, is studying masters abroad. “Bengaluru was developing, and real estate turned out to be a good investment as the city expanded over the years," said Madhumati.

A real estate-heavy portfolio can be a problem for those who need liquidity in the retirement years. Also, managing a property may not be easy for a senior. “If someone wants to leave the property as a legacy for the next generation, then it’s fine to retain it. Otherwise, it can become problematic when a senior cannot run around and maintain the property investments. It’s, therefore, advisable to move from real estate to liquid assets that are easily manageable," said Raghaw.

Financial planners say that women are more meticulous than men and also have a balanced approach to investing. However, they are also conservative investors, primarily because of inadequate knowledge about equities. “Even if a woman is conservative, at least 25-30% of the portfolio should be in equities. Anything lower than this won’t be meaningful," said Raghaw.

Madhumati tried her hands at equity investments around a decade back but liquidated them in three-four years; the returns were not even on a par with fixed deposit rates. But there was one mistake she made. Equity investments can be volatile in the short term and need to be held for a long period to help the retirement corpus grow in later years.

Though she grew slightly comfortable investing in equity after meeting her financial planner three-four years ago, she has stopped investing in equity as she doesn’t want volatility in her retirement portfolio. “I have some equity for diversification," said Madhumati.

Equity investment over the long term, seven years or more, would give better returns that can help to grow the post-retirement kitty. But getting into equity closer to retirement or after retirement can be difficult. It’s best to do it with the guidance of an expert. Increase your exposure gradually. If you want to keep 25% corpus in equities, start with 5% in the first year and increase slowly to the targeted allocation over the next few years. Stay away from illiquid assets such as real estate and invest in fewer assets for ease of management.

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