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Industry Spotlight > Women in Wealth

Saving differences between men and women

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One-quarter of Americans say they would like to be more cautious with their money, according to a recent Northwestern Mutual’s, “2013 Planning & Progress Study.”

The study found that although a significant percentage of Americans admit they need to be more considerate with their money, and both sexes concede they have fallen behind on retirement planning, there are appreciable differences between the sexes when it comes to their attitudes about financial planning.

Men are more likely than women to identify themselves as “disciplined” financial planners (37 percent versus 31 percent). However, they are also more likely to say that their financial planning needs improvement (66 percent versus 59 percent).

A major difference between the sexes, which is crucial for advisors to be aware of, is their risk tolerance. Women are less likely than men to say they are comfortable with the risks that accompany growth strategies when investing.

Men, who exhibit a higher risk tolerance, are more inclined than women to invest in the market (17 percent versus 8 percent) and therefore, more likely to report that they have suffered losses to their retirement savings over the last three years (25 percent versus 9 percent).

While examining the reasons why Americans have fallen behind the study found women are more likely to cite unexpected expenses (60 percent versus 43 percent) and debt (54 percent versus 40 percent) than men. Men are more likely than women to cite a lack of effective planning for the long-term as the reason they are behind on their retirement savings (42 percent versus 32 percent).

Individuals of both sexes over the age of 55 were surveyed and seem to feel that saving money early and often is essential. There are, however, notable differences in how they did so. Men are more likely than women to say that they heavily invested in their 401(k)s (35 percent versus 21 percent) and the stock market (17 percent versus 8 percent). Women seek more stable saving vehicles annuities and insurance.

Interestingly enough, men are more likely to say that they make decisions on their own (75 percent versus 64 percent) while women are more likely to seek financial advice from family members.

Even though men — with their high propensity for risk — have a higher probability of suffering market losses they still feel more financially secure than women (47 percent versus 40 percent).

“While the differences in perspectives between men and women are interesting, ultimately our study found too many people — regardless of gender — ended up in the exact same place: Trying to play catch up,” said Greg Oberland, Northwestern Mutual executive vice president.