How to ‘save like a girl’ and close the retirement savings gap
Olympic Gold Medalist, Mia Hamm once said: “my coach said I run like a girl. I said if he ran a little faster, he could too.” With that simple statement, she redefined the word “girl” to mean something more encouraging and inspiring than its historical connotation.
When it comes to finances, women have traditionally trailed behind men in retirement readiness, confidence and savings. A recent survey found that only 55% of women are confident about retiring comfortably, compared to 68% of men.¹ There is also, however, data that suggests that women are behaviorally better savers than men. Consider these data points
- Women-owned and -led businesses are the fastest growing new segment²
- When it comes to investing, women outperform men³
- Women have higher credit ratings than men³
If women are poised to be great savers, why are we they still facing roadblocks impacting how and when they can retire? The reason is women still face 5 key obstacles when it comes to saving for retirement. Here we outline those obstacles and provide actionable steps to help redefine what it means to “save like a girl:”
1. Pause on Careers Impacting Earnings
In a recent study, 70% of women admitted they would feel anxious about taking a career break. And while a brief stint away from their career to raise a family is typical, the amount of time taken can have a big impact on earnings. It’s estimated that women who take more than 3 years out of the workforce miss out on 46% of their earnings potential.⁴ The key is to not stress about wanting to take time off and instead, focus on having a plan to help keep you on track financially.
Solutions to help:
- Proactively create a plan for the time you are away. Think about how long you plan to be out of the workforce, have an understanding of how the time away impacts your financial health and determine how you will make up the gap. Some steps you can take to create your time away plan include, talking to a financial advisor – who can effectively help you create this holistic plan. If you are currently eligible to contribute to a work-sponsored retirement plan, you may also consider increasing your contribution now to make up for the period of time when your income will be reduced.
- Supercharge your contributions: If saving for the future is not feasible during your career pause, make a plan to catch up on savings after. For example, if you normally contribute 6% to your employer-sponsored plan and you plan to take a year off of work to care for a loved one, you may want to plan to increase contributions to 10% when you return to work to make up for lost contributions.
- Stay Connected: Consider staying involved in your career through networking, social events and volunteering. The Association of Legal Administrators (ALA), The National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF), and The American Bar Association (ABA) are just a few of the national associations that can keep legal professionals connected periodically – even while on a career break.
2. Reduced Access to a Workplace Retirement Plan
According to a recent retirement study, women (66%) are less likely to be offered a 401(k) or similar plan compared to men (75%).¹ This can in large part be explained by the fact that women are twice as likely as men to work part-time and employers don’t typically offer retirement plans for part-time employees. We’ve also seen a rise of women in the ‘Gig Economy’, with side jobs like rideshare drivers, e-commerce and freelance work – where employer-sponsored plans are not offered.
Solutions to help:
- Consider your employer’s benefits before accepting a part-time position and even consider encouraging your employer to add a retirement plan for its employees.
- If your spouse has access to a workplace retirement plan, consider having them increase their savings rate for both of you during the time you’re out of the workforce.
- Talk to a financial professional to see if you are eligible to open and contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).
3. Women still make less
As of 2017, the women to men earnings ratio is approx. $.81 to $1.00.⁵ And while there are many influences contributing to the gap, there are just as many actions women can take to help improve their own financial situation, while further bridging the gap for women as a whole.
Solutions to help:
- Know your worth. In a recent study, only 56% of women reported feeling like they were likely or very likely to get a pay raise next year, compared to 68% of men.⁵ Consider benchmarking your salary and come up with talking points to discuss a raise with your employer.
- Increase your education: According to the U.S. Department of Education, women make up 56% of students with higher education students and that majority shows no signs of slowing.⁶ Keep the pace going and look into tuition reimbursement options offered by your employer to further your education. This focus on education could eventually lead to a promotion or open the door to other opportunities.
4. Women are less aggressive investors than men
Generally speaking, women tend to invest more conservatively than men as a perceived way to preserve capital. In addition, most women (62%) say they want some level of advice when it comes to their retirement saving and investment-related decisions.¹
Solutions to help:
- Speak to a financial professional – especially one who has a solid awareness of the issues that women face financially. Many workplace retirement plans offer financial advisor services that are included with your plan, or available at a low cost to participants. Your employer can tell you if this is a service they have selected for the plan.
- Consider asset allocation funds as an investment option; these are specifically designed and managed according to a long-term investment strategy consisting of a mix of stocks, bonds, and other investments such as retirement date funds.
5. Women are living longer
According to the National Center for Health Statistics5, the average life expectancy for women in the U.S. is 81 years, compared to 76 years for men. While many factors contribute to this difference, a recent shift to more proactive health measures plays a large role. More women are focused on preventative healthcare and leveraging technology to help manage their health (64% of fitness tracker owners in the U.S. are women). So with those extra years, you’ll want to have enough savings to cover your income needs.
Solutions to help:
- Save early and often: Younger women should consider investing as soon as possible, to make the most of returns and consider an investment strategy that provides for the long-term growth you’ll need.
- Speak to an advisor about your long-term care needs, disability insurance and even how government programs like Medicare and Medicaid play a role.
- Consider a future that includes some form of working: The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that seniors will continue to work in retirement, projecting an average 4.5% growth rate for 65- to 74-year-olds staying in the workforce and 6.4% for those 75 and older).6
No one’s financial picture is the same. One-on-one, personalized help from a financial advisor or retirement professional can help you customize a plan that works for your family, your life, and your goals.
There has never been a better time for women to take charge of their lives, their careers and their financial futures. Women already possess the innate behaviors to exemplify financial success and help close their existing retirement savings gaps. By simply incorporating some of these aforementioned solutions you too can – “save like a girl.”
¹Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, Here and Now: How Women Can Take Control of Their Retirement, March 2018
²Leading Retirement Solutions White Paper, 2017, Retirement Preparedness of Women Business Owners and Leaders
³Money Magazine, The Investing Gap, March 2018 Edition
⁴Center of Talent Innovation, Off Ramps and On-Ramps (revisited June 2010)
⁵Hegewisch, A., Phil, M., & Williams-Baron, E. (2018, March 7). The Gender Wage Gap: 2017 Earnings Differences by Race and Ethnicity.
⁶U.S. Department of Education, Trends in Education Equity, https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2000/2000030.pdf
⁷National Center for Health Statistics
⁸Kochanek, K. D., Murphy, S. L., Xu, J., & Arias, E. (2017, December). Mortality in the United States, 2016. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db293.pdf