Who Worries More, Men or Women?

Retirement savings, health issues and their children’s finances are concerns for women; while men worry about debt, both household and the national level.

A survey from Spectrem Group compared the relative confidence in retirement readiness of male and female plan participants, and asked which gender is more likely to consider themselves better off financially from the previous year.

The survey polled 1,456 affluent plan participants and found that there are few retirement readiness issues on which both groups feel equally secure.

About half of both men and women say they are better off now than one year ago, while more than two-thirds of each group says that maintaining their current financial position is a primary concern. In addition, fewer than half of each is confident they will have sufficient income to live comfortably in retirement. And that’s about it.

When asked about future prospects, men are more likely than women to say they expect to be better off financially one year from now. They also express greater concern with their level of household debt. Women are more concerned about not saving enough for retirement, health issues and the financial situation of their children.

When surveyed about national issues, men and women express similar concerns about the political environment that is perceived to be an obstacle to the White House and lawmakers working together to fix the economy. Women retirement plan participants are more concerned than men about a prolonged economic downturn, the potential for higher taxes, inflation and an increase in interest rates. Only the level of the national debt causes men to express a higher level of concern than women. 

Men and Women Invest Differently

Does this mean that men are less involved, or that women tend to be worriers? How does it affect their approach to investing their retirement plan money?

Men see themselves as considerably more knowledgeable in investing than women, the survey found. Overall, 72% of men said they are very or fairly knowledgeable about investments, compared with 44% of women. Men were also more likely than women to say they enjoy investing, that they want to be involved in the day-to-day management of their investments and are more willing to take significant risk with a portion of their investments. 

Women displayed a more conservative risk tolerance and were more likely to say they want a guaranteed rate of return on investments. 

The relative importance of investment selection factors among men and women were similar but different issues were emphasized. Each ranked the level of risk associated with an investment as the most important factor. Men ranked diversification second, while women said the reputation of the company where the investment is made was more important than diversification. The tax implications of the investment and social responsibility issues were also more important to women. 

Overall, men appeared to come at investment decisions with more confidence (or blind optimism) while women appeared to have a greater appreciation of the difficulty in making good investment decisions.

The survey was written by Gerald M. O’Connor, head of Spectrem Group’s research initiative in the retirement services and institutional investment markets, which produces surveys that attitudes, behaviors and market needs.

Additional information and more insights are available at Spectrem’s Millionaire Corner.