Women and Retirement: Expectations Met or Missed?

As of late March 2020, the number of Americans expressing confidence in their ability to live comfortably in retirement was at near-record highs. Of course, since that time pandemic-related market flux may have changed the numbers. Because many surveys covering retirement are conducted only once a year, with results released several months after the information is gathered, we won’t fully understand the impact on retirements for some time.

Still, one study conducted early in 2020, the 30th Annual Retirement Confidence Survey conducted by the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) and discussed in their Issue Brief dated June 8, 2020, provides some interesting information. Companies striving to help women achieve a secure retirement may be particularly interested.

Women face different challenges in saving

While overall retirement confidence was high, women expressed less confidence in their future retirement security than their male counterparts. The problems women face in preparing for retirement tend to be different than are those of working men, the study says. Often, women earn less than men do, they take breaks from the workforce to handle parenting and other family responsibilities, and they often live longer.

Differences also evident by marital status

The results may be further broken down by marital status. Among married working women, 76% said they are very or somewhat confident they will have enough money to retire comfortably. In comparison, 43% of divorced women and 51% of never-married women expressed the same level of confidence. The disparity seems to also be due, at least in part, to lower levels of assets held by each group. About 72% of divorced women reported less than $25,000 in retirement assets, compared to 54% of never-married women. Add debt to the equation — where 74% of divorced women and 67% of never-married women said debt is a problem — and it’s easy to see why women are less confident.

To help close the confidence gap, EBRI suggests that more specialized information and help planning for retirement, and even with everyday financial issues, is needed. Women who are dealing with the financial fallout of a divorce or the death of a spouse may need particular attention. When reviewing your service providers, this could be a good topic to explore. How do the provider’s communication materials address the varying situations faced by your workforce? Can the materials be targeted to different groups? By working together to find these answers, the gaps may start to shrink.

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