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Saving for Retirement Lower Priority for Women Than Men: Willis Towers Watson

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Women rank saving for retirement as a lower priority than men, more workers overall expect to work into their 70s, and a majority of younger workers think Social Security and government health care benefits will be worse for them than retirees today. These were the findings of the 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey released by Willis Towers Watson this week, in which nearly 5,000 U.S. employees participated.

Although saving for retirement is a top financial priority for Americans — and indeed increased in importance, according to the survey — workers’ retirement confidence has dropped.

The survey found while 60% of working men ranked saving for retirement as a top financial priority, only 44% of women said the same. For all women, the study found that the two top financial priorities were meeting daily living costs and paying off debt. Married women without any children under the age of 18 did rank saving for retirement as their first financial priority.

“Varying financial needs make it difficult for many men and women to build a retirement nest egg,” noted Shane Bartling, senior consultant with Willis Towers Watson, in a statement. “While our survey finds that women place a lower priority on saving for retirement than men do, we believe it’s a question of, ‘Am I able to save for retirement?’ rather than, ‘Is it important to save for retirement?”

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The survey did find that the perceived importance of saving for retirement jumped, with 78% of respondents stating it was becoming a much more important issue, from 52% in 2013. Eighty-seven percent of baby boomers remain keen on retirement security, while it also is very important to 71% of Gen Y (millennial) employees.

This good news was tarnished slightly by a decline in retirement confidence, which fell for the first time since 2009. The survey found 57% of employees felt confident they would have enough money to live comfortably 15 years into retirement, while in 2015, 69% felt confident. Furthermore, only 39% of women are confident they’ll have enough money to last 25 years into retirement versus 54% of men.

Graying Workers

About 37% of workers expected to work past age 70, up from 30% two years ago, the study found. Only 26% expected to retire before age 65, a drop from 29% in 2015. Two-thirds of those who were identified as struggling employees, those people who worried about both short- and long-term finances and were 50 and older, didn’t expect to retire before 70.

Some findings echoed other recent surveys. For example, 74% of employees felt their generation would be worse off in retirement than their parents’ generation. Social security was a concern to 68%, who thought they wouldn’t get as much as today’s retirees, and 66% thought government medical benefits would be worse than now.

Finally, 50% of the workers planned to retire from their main job, but would keep working at something before fully retiring.

“Employees with money worries are more likely to keep working past normal retirement age to help sustain their income,” said Pat Rotello, senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson, in a statement. “Our research shows employees who work longer are typically less healthy, more stressed and less engaged at work. Given these developments, we believe employers will want to evaluate their retirement plans and financial well-being initiatives. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise us to see more employers develop and implement financial well-being programs to help their employees achieve their retirement and financial goals.”

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