There is no question that men and women face different financial planning challenges. However, after years of guiding clients to their unique vision of success, I’ve noticed women’s challenges often increase in retirement. There are a few major culprits behind the challenges women face.

On average, women don’t save as much as men, they can expect to receive less in Social Security and pension benefits, and will most likely need their money to last longer due to their increased longevity.

These factors come from a variety of issues, which include fighting for equal pay and maternity leave benefits, or trying to re-enter the workforce after raising children. Did you know the average woman takes 12 years out of the workforce to care for children or elderly parents, according to the Social Security Administration? So when we discuss the retirement crisis in this country, you can imagine the struggles women have.

Also see: "Outside-the-box retirement planning."

Due, in part, to the above realities, the average woman’s 401(k) balance is $59,000, compared to $100,000 for men, according to Market Watch. According to, women with pensions receive about 58% of an average male’s pension, or $13,603 compared to about $23,000 for men. Women also receive about $2,800 less per year in Social Security benefits than men. Those are some big differences, especially compounded over 20 to 30 years of payouts.

Also, longer retirements generally carry a higher price tag, due to the obvious costs of more mundane things like food, taxes and monthly bills. In addition, there are more insidious ones like higher health care and long-term care costs that come with living to advanced ages. As a result of having less retirement income, women typically feel less confident and prepared, financially, for retirement, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Matthew Greenwald & Associates, Inc. Retirement Confidence Survey. This is testament to the importance of a financial adviser’s guidance. It is our due diligence to help our clients adequately prepare for their golden years.

What to do about it

In light of these facts, these challenges can be addressed in a financial plan. You can also consider having “women only” enrollment or educational meetings to discuss their unique retirement or long-term care needs. These meetings can be easily arranged with companies you already serve. As you prepare these presentations, keep in mind that studies have shown that women tend to react better to storytelling than an overabundance of facts, charts and statistics. If you are looking to work with more women business owners or female plan participants for their individual planning, know that women are generally very motivated to learn, save and refer you (women refer an average of 26 people to advisers that they trust versus 11 for men, according to The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company) if you let them know what’s at stake.  

Ross is a 22-year industry veteran and a 10-year MDRT member. He spoke at the 2015 MDRT annual meeting in New Orleans on the topic of marketing to women.

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