Women Still Doomed to Fall Behind in Retirement?
Are we going to have another generation of women living in the “less-than” zone and outliving men while spending the last days of their lives at a lower standard of living?
The answer is yes if we keep it up. Starting early is extraordinarily important and it seems the millennials have more awareness and resistance to acquiring the debt our country is so famous for. But the women are still saving less.
The most recent study is out from T Rowe Price and it projects that millennial women are saving less than their male counter parts. Although the study reports millennials overall are good savers, women are 68% less likely to save than men. Those who do save and are contributing to their company 401k plans are contributing less.
This is alarming because women do not seem to have come awake to the fact that less money now means less money later. Although not true in every field, women are still getting paid less than men for the same jobs (hence men have more ability to save?); therefore they are also paying less into social security as well….. and therein the problem rolls on.
Morgan Stanley and Prudential came out with new studies for 2014 (relatively since past studies were dated back to 2007) and they had similar results. While women still feel they know less than men about investing, the spread is not that wide. According to Prudential’s research studies dated 2014-2015, 80% of women feel unprepared and 76% of men feel unprepared. The reasons range from lack of understanding about what they need to know, difficulty understanding industry jargon, not knowing their options or understanding the difference between them.
What is it going to take for women and men to have a greater understanding and confidence in their savings matters? That’s a loaded question of course. The first step is taking note of how much they might need to enable themselves to have retirement income. There are many ways to create income in retirement, but when you have the option of saving in a tax deferred account, especially when your employer is matching your savings; it makes sense to save as much as possible.
The T.Rowe Price study found that “women are contributing an average of 7.2% (median: 5%) of their annual salary to their 401(k), compared with men, who are contributing an average of 8.4% (median: 7%).”
It may not seem like that’s much of a difference, but compounded over time (in this case 30+ years for millennials) on the path to retirement it can be substantial. The reasons for this are not clear. It’s one thing to tell women to save more, but it’s obviously easier to save more when you earn more. The difference may be due to the wage discrepancy or it could be because women spend more. The study does not reveal the answer to this question. I am compelled to mention another possible issue that is being manifested in the retirement income gap and that is the career breaks the millennial women may have if they choose to raise a family. In the current situation, they are financially discourage from doing so and if they decide to anyway the retirement gap may reveal itself later.
What is my advice? Earn as much as you can and save as much as you can in the early stages of your career growth. Your twenties can be fun, and may be the best time to find a life-partner (if that even exists anymore); but it is also the best time to take advantage of your youth beauty and energy for positive career launching and bulking up your savings.