Women (on average) have less saved for retirement than men do. Think: 70% of the retirement income that men have, according to the AAUW. Women are also more likely to have no retirement savings than men. But women typically need to save more than men for their golden years.
A few reasons. Like...
1. Long live women. Women live an average 5.9 years more than men, according to the CDC. Extra years on Earth means you need more money, especially if expensive health issues come up. Sad fact: it also means women are likely to outlive male partners.
2. The gender pay gap is still a thing. Women earn less than men across many industries. And BIPOC women tend to get paid even less. That means women have to set aside a bigger share of their income to save the same amount for retirement as men. Oh, and lower earnings = lower Social Security checks. (Benefits are calculated based on how much you make, how long you work, and your age at retirement.)
3. Lack of paid family leave. Women are often expected to take on caregiving responsibilities for both kids and older family members (hi, sandwich generation). And without the option for a flexible schedule, paid time off, or affordable help, unpaid caregivers often have to take career breaks to meet all those demands. That can hurt opportunities to advance in your career and stunt lifetime earnings. Meaning you have to save more of your smaller and less frequent paychecks to make that last career break last.
Cool cool. What can I do to make up the difference?
Closing the pay gap and offering paid leave would be a big help. But since you probably can't do that on your own (we’re looking at you, Uncle Sam), here are a few ways to grow your own retirement account balance.
Get that money. Earning more lets you save and invest more for Future (Retired) You. So ask for raises when you feel you deserve it. And remember that changing jobs can lead to bigger bumps in pay. Also think about side gigs and part-time jobs that can keep money coming in even when full-time work isn't an option.
Start investing now. The longer money is invested, the more it could grow thanks to compounding returns. That’s when the money you earn on your investments gets reinvested and also makes money. Think of it like a snowball: the bigger it gets, the faster it rolls, building on itself over time. Get rolling.
Meet your (employer) match. If your company offers help with saving for retirement, say yes. Many employers offer to match a portion of your 401(k) contribution up to a certain amount. So you'd want to contribute at least that much to "capture your full company match," as the pros say. That’s free money.
Make it automatic. Setting up automatic transfers from your paycheck to your retirement account means you don’t have to watch your money go...or miss it. So it won't mentally hurt as much to save more. No 401(k)? No problem. You can set up auto-transfers to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), which is available to anyone who earns income.
One big consequence of the gender wealth gap: women tend to have less saved for retirement than men. Worse, women tend to need more because they live longer. Making national paid leave a thing in the US – and the pay gap not a thing – would help. Until that happens, it’s important to have a plan for saving more.
Updated July 11 to include recent data on the retirement savings gap and life expectancies.
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