Women and Retirement by the Numbers

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On average, women live longer than men, so they need more retirement savings than their male counterparts. But a recent GOBankingRates survey shows that women aren’t necessarily prepared and, in fact, many women have little to nothing saved for retirement. Here’s a look at the state of women and retirement savings by the numbers.

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40% of Women Have Less Than $10,000 Saved for Retirement

The GOBankingRates survey found that the majority of women (40%) have less than $10,000 saved for retirement and an additional 30% have between $10,001 and $50,000 saved for retirement. Although men are also not in great shape when it comes to retirement savings, the percentages of men who fall into those two pools are less than is the case for women — 31% of men have less than $10,000 saved for retirement and 24% have between $10,001 and $50,000.

There are numerous reasons why women tend to have less saved for retirement, one of which is that women often have career gaps — time when they lose access to workplace retirement plans and are likely not actively saving for retirement.

“Women often leave the workforce to care for children or even elderly parents,” said Michelle Patello, wealth management advisor at TIAA in Fort Collins, Colorado. “This break in employment often prevents them from saving consistently throughout their careers, and much of their lost earnings and savings will never be recovered.”

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Another barrier is a lack of financial education.

“Financial literacy and planning lead to financial confidence, and traditionally, women have not been exposed to financial education in the same way as their male counterparts,” said Neha Mirchandani of BrightPlan, a financial wellness company. “In fact, our early experiences with money set the tone and act as a powerful force throughout our financial lives. It’s often called our ‘money story’ or ‘money script,’ which is the impact of our childhood on how we feel about money and how we interact with it and manage it throughout our lives. If women don’t have a powerful childhood ‘money story,’ it can bleed into adulthood.”

12% of Women Believe They Can Never Afford To Retire

With most women having little to nothing saved for retirement, it’s not too surprising that over 1 in 10 women believe they will never be able to retire. The percentage of women who believe they can never afford to retire is double the percentage of men who believe the same (12% versus 6%).

While this percentage may be based in reality, there may also be a psychological aspect to this feeling.

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“Women are, on average, less confident than men about managing their money,” Mirchandani said.

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31% of Women Haven’t Started Saving for Retirement

The GOBankingRates survey found that nearly one-third of women haven’t started saving for retirement; the percentage of men who haven’t started saving is significantly lower — 18%.

TIAA’s Patello emphasizes the importance for women to “start saving for retirement ASAP. Automatically deduct money from your paychecks and use it to build your retirement savings. This allows the money to compound.”

The easiest way to get started is to contribute to your employer-sponsored retirement plan if you have access to one.

“Women should save at least what their employers will match, which is often 3% to 5%,” Patello said. “If a woman makes $55,000 a year and saves 3% of that salary, their companies could match that 3%. That’s $1,650 from you and another $1,650 from them. If you don’t save that full 3%, you’re leaving free money on the table.”

23% of Women Can’t Budget Any of Their Salary for Retirement

One of the biggest barriers for women when it comes to saving for retirement is the gender wage gap. Because women are paid less on average, it is harder for them to find wiggle room in their budgets to put money aside for retirement. The GOBankingRates survey found this is the case for nearly one-quarter of women. Meanwhile, only 13% of men said they were unable to put any of their salary toward retirement savings.

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“It makes sense that women have less retirement savings than men because traditionally, women have been paid less than men,” said Shelly-Ann Eweka, CFP, ChFC, senior director of advice strategy at TIAA. “It’s 82 cents on the dollar for all women — Black women earn 63 cents on a dollar and Latina women earn 53 cents. Those stats are staggering.”

With rising costs and stagnant wages, it is getting even more challenging for women to set aside funds for long-term savings.

“You don’t have a retirement account if you’re struggling to pay your monthly bills,” Eweka said. “It’s a direct correlation. If you can’t keep up with monthly bills, saving for retirement is a luxury.”

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 997 Americans ages 18 and older from across the country between August 9 and August 11, 2022, asking sixteen different questions: (1) How much money do you currently have saved for retirement?; (2) How much money do you think you’ll need to retire?; (3) Realistically, at what age do you want to be retired?; (4) At what age did you start saving for retirement?; (5) What worries you financially about retirement? (Select all that apply.); (6) Do you plan to work in retirement?; (7) What assets do you have in your retirement portfolio? (Select all that apply.); (8) How has the current inflation impacted your retirement plans?; (9) How much of your retirement do you plan to fund with Social Security?; (10) How do you feel about the future of Social Security when you retire?; (11) What percentage of your salary are you currently investing for retirement?; (12) Are you planning to move after your retirement?; (13) Where is your ideal place to retire?; (14) What government programs do you plan to use for your retirement? (Select all that apply.); (15) Do you have a pension plan?; and (16) How much do you think the average American has saved at the time they retire? GOBankingRates used PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct the poll.

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About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 
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