Women Lack Retirement Planning Knowledge, but Ready to Learn

A survey by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies released this week shows a grave lack of understanding about retirement planning among working women, but highlights a willingness to learn as a sign of hope.  

Three out of four women admit that they do not know as much as they should about retirement investing, according to the survey, and half said they are not confident in their ability to retire comfortably.   

“Just 8 percent of women feel they are already educated enough to successfully reach their retirement savings goals,” said Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.  “It’s up to everyone to help educate and motivate the other 92 percent.  By listening to and embracing what American women want and need to achieve a secure retirement, we can start effecting positive change today.  

So what is it that the nearly 1,800 American working women who participated in the survey want? When asked how they would describe themselves when it comes to saving and investing for retirement, 56% say “Educate me: I seek advice, but make my own final decisions.” 

The lack of knowledge is extensive: 

  • Most (82%) are unsure or don’t know of any fees that may be charged to their employer-sponsored retirement plan 
  • More than eight out of ten women (84%) are completely unaware of the “Saver’s Credit” that is available to low-to-middle income workers who are saving for retirement  
  • When asked if they are aware that people age 50 and older may be allowed to make catch-up contributions to their retirement plan, 57% said “no” 

While these statistics may appear discouraging, the survey revealed promising insights for advisers into how to help them improve their situation and better prepare for retirement. More than half (57%) want to receive more information and advice from their company on how to reach their retirement goals, and 40% cited “a good starting point that is easy to understand” as something that would motivate them to learn more about saving and investing for retirement. 

One prevalent misconception among women is the role of Social Security in retirement. While 401(k) plans and IRAs were most frequently cited by women as their expected primary source of income to cover living expenses at retirement (41%), almost one-third of the women surveyed still expect Social Security to be their primary source of income. Sixty-seven percent of women surveyed indicate that they are offered a 401(k), compared to 74% of men. The picture is worse for women who work part-time, with only half offered a plan.  

“Women already face a number of unique circumstances, such as typically lower salaries, time out of the workforce and longer life expectancy, that present challenges to effectively saving for retirement,” said Collinson. “Despite recognizing these challenges, many women are still missing opportunities to improve their outlook by adopting more proactive savings habits.”