Retirement should be an enjoyable phase of life, but many women have financial anxiety attached to this milestone. A new GOBankingRates survey found that more than 1 in 3 women (38%) fears that she has not saved enough money for retirement and that she will outlive her savings. Meanwhile, only 28% of men have this same fear.
In this “Financially Savvy Female” column, we’re chatting with Samantha Garcia, a wealth advisor at Halbert Hargrove, about why women are more fearful of running out of money in retirement than men, and how women can ensure they do have enough saved to live well into their golden years.
Why Women Are More Fearful of Outliving Their Retirement Savings
There are a number of factors — both psychological and mathematical — that explain why women fear they will run out of retirement savings. Garcia outlined a few main reasons why more women have this fear than men.
Women Expect To Live Longer
The longer you live, the more money you will need in retirement, so generally speaking, women will need more money to fund their retirement than men do.
“With the women I work with, especially [those in] married couples, women expect to outlive their husbands,” Garcia said. “Even single women [have this fear]. The lifespan expectancy is higher, so if you’re going to live longer, are you sure that your money is going to make it work for the long term?”
Women Are More Risk Averse
Although women need more money to retire, they typically have less saved than their male counterparts. One reason is how women utilize the money they are putting aside for the future.
“Typically, women are more risk-averse than men are. And so even if they’re saving for retirement, are they saving it or are they investing it? Because there is a difference,” Garcia said.
“Men are typically more aggressive in terms of their investments,” she continued. “Women tend to be more conservative. So if you have a woman who is saving the same amount of dollars as a man, if she’s only earning interest on that, or if it’s in a portfolio that’s only earning 3% or 4%, and you have a man earning 6% or 7% on average, those balances are going to be significantly different, even over 10 years.”
Women Earn Less Money
Another factor leading to less retirement savings for women is that women, on average, earn less than men.
“Even if you’re saving the same percentage, it doesn’t equate to the same amount of dollars, so that’s definitely one thing that has to be addressed,” Garcia said. “I think we’re making progress — we’re just not there yet.”
Women May Have a Fear of Money Management in General
Women’s fear of not saving enough may be part of a larger fear of managing their money.
“Some of the widows that I’m currently working with haven’t handled finances,” Garcia said. “Their husband was the one who was in charge of that. And so it’s also a learning curve when their husband passes or if he becomes incapacitated, that they now have to take over everything, and they may not have done it for decades. So there’s some of that fear of the unknown as well that comes into play.”
How Women Can Put Their Retirement Savings Fears To Rest
Although there are several factors at play making it harder for women to save enough for retirement, it’s possible with proper planning.
“Working with an advisor and creating a plan that is tailored to a woman really makes sense,” Garcia said. “Even if you’re maxing out your 401(k) or IRA, how do you know if that’s going to be enough without working with somebody who can run the projections, who can create a plan for you, who can help you execute it and let you know if you’re on track or not?”
Having a professional on your side can help assuage any retirement-related money fears.
“A lot of people worry about the future — the unknown is totally scary and it’s completely natural, but there are people who can help,” Garcia said. “There are advisors who can be a fiduciary for you, who can help you plan and hopefully settle some of those nerves. I have clients who are worried when they meet me, and we touch on it every time. We’re constantly reevaluating, where are you at today? So they get a sense of comfort and relief.”
Whether or not you decide to work with an advisor, one thing that every woman should be doing is making regular contributions to their retirement savings accounts.
“I think that’s really important — and not just putting in the minimum,” Garcia said. “That goes for everybody, but especially women. Try to max it out — and I know it’s really scary when you hear what the 401(k) max contribution amount is, but try to build up to that.
“One of the easiest ways to help clients get there is as you get a raise, take half your raise and put it towards your 401(k) or put it towards an IRA,” she continued. “That way you can get there over time and it doesn’t seem as scary.”
Garcia notes that if you are not working and your spouse is, it’s still important to have your own retirement account.
“Make sure that you’re not just contributing to his [or her] 401(k) or IRA,” Garcia said.
Methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 1,045 Americans ages 18 and older from across the country between May 1 and May 4, 2023, asking seven different questions: (1) Please state your level of agreement with the statement: A mortgage is the best solution when buying a home.; (2) Have you ever personally owned an electric car?; (3) How likely are you to buy an electric car in the next 5 years?; (4) When was the last time you were in the market for a new car?; (5) Knowing it will save you gas money, how much more would you be willing to spend on an EV over a similar gas-powered car?; (6) What area is your biggest concern during retirement planning?; and (7) What financial steps have you taken for retirement? (Select all that apply.). GOBankingRates used PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct the poll.