How to Fight the Retirement Gender Gap

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How to Fight the Retirement Gender Gap

The gender gap doesn’t end at paychecks. It extends all the way into retirement. But there are steps they can take to ensure your savings provide enough income in retirement.

When it comes to having enough retirement income, women have a definite disadvantage, beginning with wages. Despite improvements, women still make just 80 cents for every dollar men make doing the same work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Even more troubling, according to the Center for Financial Literacy at Boston College, a widow needs about 75% of a couple’s pre-retirement income to maintain the lifestyle she had before her spouse died, but widows have on average about 60% of the couple’s income.

So, ladies, if you haven’t done so already, now is the time to save for retirement and have a plan to generate income after you stop working. Here are some steps you can take to make the process work better for you:

1. Pay Yourself First

Women tend to save money after their expenses and debt are taken care of. They put off saving for their future selves while paying off mortgages, credit card and student loan debt, or saving for college for their children. (see more on retirement vs college savings here.) And, of course, women tend to take care of family first, spending 28 hours a week on parenting or care giving duties — 65% more than the average for men, according to 2016 statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. But that doesn’t have to mean always putting yourself last. Taking care of your own needs is a critical part of financial wellness, for you and for your family. If you really want what’s best for your loved ones, ensuring you won’t be a financial burden on them down the road is a great place to start.

2. Participate in Retirement Savings Plans

Currently, 73% of women participate in either 401(k) plans or Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), compared to 82% of men. Among employees who have access to 401(k) plans, only 77% of women contribute, while 84% of men do. On average, women contribute just 7% of their annual salary, and men contribute 10%.

Before you can increase your contributions, you must first open a retirement savings account. It’s extremely important to funding your retirement, for several reasons:

  • Social Security is highly unlikely to cover all your retirement needs.
  • Employer-sponsored 401(k)s can actively help you save more for retirement.
  • Both 401(k)s and IRAs allow you to invest in a range of investment classes, from stocks, to fixed-income investments like bonds and bank certificates of deposit (CDs).
  • Both 401(k)s and IRAs have potential tax advantages, which can put more money in your pocket.

So anything you can do to establish retirement savings plans, regularly contribute to them, and reap their tax advantages will ultimately increase your stability and security in your golden years.

Work with a Financial Professional

More than half of women don’t work with a financial professional, either because they don’t believe they can afford it, or because they don’t think they have enough resources to warrant a professional’s help. A financial advisor can help you develop a tax-efficient plan and help you maximize your Social Security claiming options. In fact, people who set a specific retirement savings goal are three times more likely to contribute 15% or more.

For many women, saving enough money can mean the difference between a vibrant retirement and a continuous struggle to make ends meet. By taking these steps now, you can begin to close the retirement savings gap.