In a supplemental report to their most recent retirement survey titled, "Women & Retirement Security," our colleagues in Goldman Sachs Asset Management took a deep dive to better understand the challenges women face on their retirement journey.
They discovered that the vortex of financial challenges that can affect individuals’ retirement preparations has an outsized impact on women.
It’s difficult enough to balance the demands of everyday life with planning for the future, but women face unique challenges that can make retirement planning even harder to navigate.
While women control one-third of total US household financial assets ($10.9 trillion) and make up 47% of the workforce, their lifetime income averages 21% lower than men.
This difference in lifetime income is partially due to women having nine years less of earned income, on average. Lifetime income and time in the workforce can impact both Social Security benefits and women’s own retirement contributions.
Women also have longer average life expectancies and need to plan for their savings to last longer, putting even more pressure on their retirement finances.
So, given these added difficulties, how are women doing and feeling today about their retirement planning? Here are some of the key findings from the Goldman Sachs survey.
Eight in 10 retired women report their current income is less than the amount commonly recommended for a comfortable retirement. (It is commonly suggested that 70% of pre-retirement income is needed to maintain the standard of living in retirement.)
Not surprisingly, these problems start long before retirement. Among working women, fully half believe their savings are currently behind schedule (compared to 35% of men).
The financial vortex is a combination of competing short-term financial priorities, life events and planning assumptions. Though women juggle the same types of financial responsibilities as men, more women than men say these duties are significantly impacting their ability to save for retirement.
In addition to juggling expenses, debt and saving for other needs, women are often the primary child care or elder care provider for their family and are more likely than men to take time away from the workforce for caregiving. This can have a major impact on their retirement savings.
How much? As an example, taking two four-year periods out of the workforce (one mid-career and one later) can reduce retirement savings up to 35%.
More than 60% of women say they retired earlier than planned, and 66% retired for reasons outside their control like their health or to take care of a family member.
Early retirement can deliver a double hit. It can mean less time than expected to accumulate savings, and those savings must last for a longer period.
Almost 70% of women respondents manage their own savings vs. 63% of men. But at the same time, women report more concern and higher levels of stress managing their retirement savings. They are less confident in their ability to deal with them effectively.
Women can face difficult decisions throughout their careers, as the survey highlights. Balancing family, caregiving, health issues and other “vortex” challenges with preparing for a comfortable financial future is complex.
Nearly all of the survey respondents, both women and men, believe that professional financial help is important. But the appetite for education and advice is even stronger among women: 46% believe financial help is very or extremely important to successfully manage their retirement savings.
The good news is that financial help is readily available these days in multiple forms. There’s a wealth of articles, books and podcasts on personal finance topics that can be valuable resources for women looking to build their financial knowledge and confidence.
Because women have special considerations when it comes to retirement planning, consulting a financial advisor who can provide individualized advice may also be a useful step in helping navigate the financial vortex.
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