Close Close

Retirement Planning > Saving for Retirement

Brokers can help close the gender gap in retirement savings

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

It’s no secret: There’s a marked disparity between what women earn and what men take home. While the gender wage gap is improving, it’s still pronounced. In fact, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012, women who worked full-time earned only 81 percent of what men did. This is still an improvement over 1979, when women earned 62 percent of what men earned.

Unfortunately, there’s also a significant gender gap when it comes to retirement savings.

Women are in a precarious pre-retirement position. In its 2015 Gender Gap in Financial Wellness report, Financial Finesse, which provides financial guidance and education to employees through their employers, found a 26 percent gap in the shortfall between the median 45-year-old man’s and the median 45-year-old-woman’s retirement savings and what each needs to replace 70 percent of their income in retirement, plus projected healthcare costs. “While both the median man and woman face a significant shortfall, the median woman has a lower lifetime income, has saved less, and yet faces higher overall retirement and healthcare costs due to a longer life expectancy,” says the report. What’s worse, Financial Finesse also calculated the retirement shortfall for the average 45-year-old man and woman based on similar retirement expenditures at age 65 – and discovered that the gender gap in the shortfall grows to 95 percent.

A 2013 National Institute on Retirement Security report estimated the total retirement savings shortfall in the U.S. – the gap between assets and post-retirement needs – is as high as $14 trillion. Sallie Krawcheck, chief executive of Ellevate Network, which promotes women as business leaders, calls the situation “a women’s crisis.”

Brokers and advisors can help close the gap while boosting their business, simply by providing better advice and steering female investors toward investments that will help them reach their retirement goals and provide a measure of assurance that they are financially prepared for their golden years.

For financial firms, women represent a large opportunity for growth, Krawcheck said at Morningstar’s Investment Conference. Financial advisors are losing female clients because they’ve been ignoring women’s needs, she said, and they could improve the retirement outcome for women by giving better advice on maximizing wealth and making it last. Krawcheck also pointed out that 90 percent of men are happy with their financial advisors, versus just 30 percent of women.

Krawcheck warned the conference audience to stop focusing on the existing male market and begin to concentrate on serving female investors. As reported in Morningstar’s Advisor Perspectives, she offered five pieces of advice for advisors looking to better engage their female clients:

1. Talk “with” women, rather than talking “at” them. They want to be part of the conversation and have their concerns heard by advisers. It’s best to avoid investment jargon, such as alpha.

2. Focus on risk, since women’s concerns about the risks involved in investments can lead them to prefer parking money in bank accounts.

3. Go beyond investments to look at the bigger picture. For women, that includes their careers and how they can overcome the wage gap between men and women and earn as much as their male counterparts. For example, advisors can help by talking about ways to get a raise.

4. Work with women clients on specific goals, such as paying for their children’s college education and ensuring they’ll have the income they need in retirement. Such an approach may work better than discussing the performance of their investments.

5. Keep in mind the social investing aspects of decisions, since women appreciate investments that provide a positive impact.

The Financial Finesse report notes that there are encouraging signs that the gap is narrowing as increasing numbers of women take steps to improve their financial wellness. Annuities can be an ideal choice for women who are looking to keep their principal secure while receiving predictable and guaranteed income for life. Fixed indexed annuities, in particular, are a great option for those also looking to link their return to a market index – without having to risk involvement in a potentially volatile stock market.