Women lag in 401(k) account savings

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Women, especially those who have kids or carry more debt, are not saving enough for retirement. In fact, financial experts say this lack of preparation for their senior lives contributes to the country’s retirement crisis, which will be acutely felt by women. However, employers can help their female employees close the retirement gap.

Women working full-time, on average, make 79 cents to the man’s dollar — women of color make significantly less — and are not saving enough, according Prudential’s new paper “Closing the Retirement Income Gender Gap: The Opportunity is Now.”

Those lower wages, in turn, create a shortage of Social Security benefits and 33% less money in a woman’s 401(k) account, according to the report.

“It’s a little bit of [a] perfect storm,” says Janice Co, head of strategy and marketing, retirement, at Prudential Financial. “That’s what you’re seeing with the wage gap and women leaving the workforce, which is impacting Social Security. It isn’t these items in isolation.”

The lower wages and lack of savings for retirement also present a turnover challenge for employers. “People don’t retire,” Co says. “There’s a real cost to an organization.”

In all, the median annual income of women age 65 and older is 42% lower than men, according to the report.

See also: Why employers need to offer benefits to informal caregivers

To minimize the gendered retirement gap, employers should focus on building out their financial wellness program, says Co. “There’s real cost to employers when workers are under financial stress,” she says. “Are they tending to other issues around debt?”

Similarly, one in six employees describe themselves as informal caregivers, and 66% of those workers are women, according to the report. Women also spend 65% more time doing unpaid work than men, and tend to not have enough time to focus on retirement goals, according to the report.

Employers should also leverage their digital capabilities to help women envision their life in retirement, which is likely to include being single and carrying debt, says Co.

Companies can use technology and their retirement vendors to create a safe environment for employees, especially millennials, to learn about retirement and make changes like auto-enrollment that will affect their savings, she says.

“Prudential has client engagement campaigns that have a component of email,” she says. “We also have counselors that will go on site and work with people face-to-face.”

The report also recommends that employers offer guaranteed lifetime income options to women, who benefit a bit more from these offerings, Co says.

“An extra 1% earlier in their career for a longer period of time: That will make a huge difference in preparing for retirement,” she says. “Women take care of so many other people. [We need to tell them to] take care of yourself.”

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Retirement income Retirement readiness Retirement planning Retirement benefits 401(k)