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Retirement Trends
The Real Reason Women Save Less For Retirement Than Men Is Too Typical
AdobeStock/ Rido
AnnaMarie Houlis
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Some women save less than men on retirement, but a new study has looked at why that it is. The researchers explored the attitudes of women and men toward saving for retirement and found that more men identify saving for retirement a top priority, but it's not necessarily because women don't think it's important.

"Varying financial needs make it difficult for many men and women to build a retirement nest egg," Shane Bartling, senior consultant for Willis Towers Watson said in a prepared statement. "While our survey finds that women place a lower priority on saving for retirement than men do, we believe it’s a question of, 'Am I able to save for retirement?' rather than, 'Is it important to save for retirement?'"

The researchers surveyed 4,983 U.S. workers in July and August of 2017, and the results, compiled in the Willis Towers Watson 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey, show that 60 percent of the men involved ranked saving for retirement as their top financial priority. In contrast, only 44 percent of the women surveyed said the same — that's because they had more pressing concerns, such as daily living costs (64 percent) and paying off debt (57 percent), even if they wanted to save for retirement first.

Daily living costs are perhaps more of a burden for more women than men, as women who work full time in the United States are still typically paid just 80 percent of what men are paid — that's a pay gap of 20 percent. And paying off debt is also a major concern for a lot of women, typically more so than for men, as student loan debt, for example, carries gendered implications. The gender pay gap, coupled with the fact that families save and spend more on sons’ educations than daughters’ educations, means that women with student loans tend to pay back their debts slower than their male counterparts.

Add to all that the fact that women have longer life expectancies than men, and that means that women usually have to save more than men, too.

One of the only commonalities that women and men share with regards to feelings on retirement is that they all have declining confidence in their retirement prospects. Fifty-seven percent still feel good about having enough financial resources to live comfortably for 15 years in retirement, but that number is down from 69 percent in 2015. Still just 39 percent of women are confident they’ll have enough resources to last 25 years into retirement, compared to 54 percent of men.

Interventions to ensure that women can make saving for retirement more of a priority might include further budgeting and debt management tools, and encouraging women toward higher default rates in their retirement plans, the researchers suggest.

But perhaps the issue is that we're always placing the burden on women to fix the burden they've already got on their shoulders. Might I add paying women fairly so they don't have to budget better or manage debt more than men, with which they're already tasked? 

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.

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