Data and Research

Women’s Retirement Income Literacy Is Lower Than Men’s

Only 18% of women passed a retirement income literacy quiz, compared to 35% of men.

By Lee Barney editors@strategic-i.com | July 24, 2017

Women at retirement age, those between the ages of 60 and 75, understand the components of retirement income far less well than men of the same age, although even men don’t grasp the topic very well, the RICP Retirement Income Literacy Survey from The American College of Financial Services found. Only 18% of women passed the quiz, compared to 35% of men.

A mere 16% of women answered questions about annuity products in retirement correctly, compared to 24% of men. When it comes to strategies for sustaining income throughout retirement, 34% of women have a handle on this, compared to 48% of men. Less than one-third, 31%, of women know how to make investment decisions in retirement planning, compared to 49% of men, and only 30% of women understand company retirement plans, compared to 40% of men.

Only 33% of women said they are extremely knowledgeable about retirement income planning, compared to 44% of men. There seems to be a disconnect on this among women, as 55% said they are extremely confident that they would have enough money to live comfortably in retirement.

Women did better when it comes to long-term care expenses and Medicare, with 38% of women understanding the importance of paying for long-term care expenses (versus 35% of men) and 76% of women understanding Medicare insurance planning, on par with men.

“Women face considerable challenges when it comes to preparing for retirement, and lacking financial literacy certainly does not help the cause,” says Jocelyn Wright, assistant professor of women’s studies at The American College of Financial Services. “This is a problem, especially when a female at age 65 can expect to live another 20 years on average, two years longer than the average man. With this in mind, women cannot depend on their spouse to hold the keys to their retirement. It is time to get smart on how to navigate this complex and extremely important stage of life.”

Wright adds: “The results of this study reveal that women continue to require more financial education and increased planning. Throughout their lifetime, women will face challenges that include longer life expectancy, lower income, increased need for long-term care, and they are more likely to experience widowhood. Financial advisers can play an important role in helping to close the retirement income literacy gap between men and women.”

Women who work with an adviser expect more from them than do men. Fifty-five percent of women with an adviser believe it is important for advisers to educate them about the risk of running out of money in retirement, compared to 42% of men, and 60% of women think it is important that their advisers educate them about investment management, compared to 47% of men.

The survey was conducted in February among 1,244 adults between the ages of 60 and 75 whose household had at least $100,000 in investable assets, not including their primary residence.