The Retirement Savings Gap and How Women Can Get Ahead
Women know the importance of juggling obligations and priorities, including work, being a spouse, caring for kids or elders and spending time volunteering in our communities. We work hard to meet our goals and to achieve success, so why not add that same outlook for planning for retirement?
For the past few years, I’ve worked with a married couple in their late 20s on their 401(k) planning. Both the husband and wife invest the same dollar amount in their 401(k) plans. For this couple, saving for retirement is a healthy competition. She doesn’t want her husband’s account balance to be more than hers. If it is, she’ll increase her deferral to match or surpass his contribution. Here’s the interesting part: Right now in their careers, he’s making more money than she does, but it doesn’t stop her from maintaining the same level of savings.
Does this couple sound like you and your significant other? Do they sound like couples you know?
In reality, these clients are outliers when it comes to national retirement saving statistics. Many women do not save at the same rates as men, if they save at all. In fact, a 2018 Prudential study found that women have saved on average 43 percent less than men, and nearly half the female respondents said they have no retirement savings at all. More than a quarter of the women who responded (28 percent) said they plan to rely on their spouse’s money as a significant portion of their retirement income.
What you can do today to better prepare for retirement
Luckily, the steps to better understanding your 401(k) can be simple. Here are four actions you can take today to ensure you’re preparing for retirement:
- Contribute as much as you can from your paycheck each month.
- Take advantage of your employer’s full match — this is free money!
- Spend time reviewing and understanding your statement each quarter.
- Attend 401(k) education sessions when they’re offered by your employer to learn more about the Plan.
Additional steps business leaders and decision makers can take to help all employees
- Be an advocate for securing and maintaining a strong retirement plan as part of your company’s benefits package.
- Challenge your company to offer to hold 401(k) education sessions if they don’t already.
- Invite other women to retirement planning and 401(k) education events.
What will you do today to get ahead in your retirement savings?
This article was originally featured in the Des Moines Business Record’s Lift IOWA newsletter on July 1, 2019.