What Women Executives Fear About Retirement: MetLife Survey

Nearly half wish for more business and financial experience, and many are wary of advisors

A survey of career women in the $75,000-plus salary category shows that most fear they will never have enough money to retire, even as they demonstrate confidence about handling finances for their households.

“The MetLife Study of Finances and Female Executives,” released Tuesday, said that 62% of career women in executive or professional positions, earning $75,000 or more per year and between the ages of 45 and 70, are concerned about eventual retirement, despite their confidence in other areas of their financial lives.

These women have a retirement edge over the general population in that 46% are covered by a traditional defined benefit pension plan while only 19% of working people have such a plan. Most also have 401(k)s, IRAs, and savings on top of those, and some even have long-term care coverage (less than 20%), yet most lack confidence about their long-term financial well-being.

They’re assured about their capabilities in other areas, with 90% trusting their ability to manage their households’ finances; 41% are very confident about it. Most say their families depend on their income.

But faith in their relationship with money isn’t uniform; 44% say they wish they had more business and financial experience, a quarter say they’re confused about how to grow the money they have, and more than a third say they lost a good chunk of their savings during the economic downturn. Those losses have led to lower risk tolerance in nearly a third, although they mostly characterize themselves as moderates in investing.

They also feel they have not been remunerated as well as male colleagues, and regard saving for retirement as a lifelong challenge—nearly three quarters, in fact, say it is their biggest challenge.

Sandra Timmerman, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, said in a statement, “This poll indicates that many successful women lack confidence in their financial futures.” She added that while the current state of the economy may be a factor, with many women sitting out the markets, the end result was that “they may not be protecting themselves financially with products like disability insurance, annuities and long-term care insurance, especially since more than half will not be able to count on a pension for retirement. Even those who earn more than $200,000 per year say they’re worried about outliving their income/savings.”

Many respondents are proactive about their concerns, however, with nearly half looking for guaranteed retirement income and more than a quarter saving more. Still, there’s room for improvement. Timmermann said, “More than ever, it’s important that today’s women consider consulting a trusted advisor to ensure they are taking a comprehensive view of their financial safety net and retirement needs.”

That could be difficult; many women are wary of advisors, and feel they are too expensive. More than half of respondents rely on their own instincts to make financial decisions.

The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive for the MetLife Mature Market Institute between June and July of 2010, was produced with the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER).

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