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Women face a unique set of retirement planning challenges.
Unfortunately, research shows that female workers lag behind their male counterparts.
The good news is that working women have the opportunity to take action now to improve their prospects for a better retirement, according to Catherine Collinson, CEO and President of the Transamerica Institute and the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.
“Our research consistently finds action steps that are within reach for most women, and they may even seem somewhat basic,” she said, starting with saving and budgeting. “But a lot of women don’t do them yet.”
Of course, men are also guilty of not taking some of these steps. But women fail to a greater extent, she said.
Working women have less than half of total household retirement savings than men, with an estimated median of $57,000 versus $118,000, according to a recent report from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.
Women are less likely than men to have saved $250,000 or more in total household retirement accounts, at 24% versus 35%.
Notably, 24% of women and 14% of men have less than $10,000 in savings or nothing at all. Women are paid 83 cents for every dollar earned by men. And that gap is even wider for women of color.
“The gender pay gap leads to an even bigger retirement savings gap,” Collinson said.
Additionally, women also face unique challenges when it comes to planning for their years out of work. For one thing, they tend to live longer than men.
They are also more likely to take time off from the labor market to care for children or loved ones. This can lead to reduced retirement savings and possibly lower Social Security benefits depending on their own work history.
For working women, having access to a workplace pension plan is key to increasing their retirement savings.
Search for a new job
Many job opportunities can help women re-enter the labor market or find better-paying opportunities.
Available job vacancies hit a record 11.55 million in March, according to the latest government data.
“Employers are looking for talent, so for women who are ready to come back, now is the perfect time to do so,” Collinson said.
Finding a more lucrative position can be a first step toward improving retirement security, especially if there is employer matching on 401(k) contributions.
Certainly, women who have taken on care responsibilities may not be able to work full time. But they may want to consider taking part-time or contract work if they are able. This can help them reduce their need to dip into their savings and pave the way for them to return to the workforce when they’re ready, Collinson said.
Participate in planning
“A lot of women are saving for retirement, but they haven’t started engaging in financial planning yet,” Collinson said.
It can start with just talking more about retirement, Collinson said.
About 28% of women never talk about retirement, compared to 17% of men, according to Transamerica. Additionally, only 17% of women frequently discuss saving, investing and planning for retirement, compared to 28% of men.
Stay involved in family finances
Working women are much more likely than men to say they don’t know about their spouse’s or partner’s retirement savings.
But women shouldn’t be shy about getting more involved in all aspects of their family’s financial planning, Collinson said.
“In a marriage or a partnership, it’s a partnership. Both parties need to be equally committed to household finances,” Collinson said.