Young or Old, Few Feel Ready for Retirement

Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (2016)

The full report: 

Press Release with details:



Top Five Retirement Challenges For Women Based On Earnings


1. Approximately 2 out of 5 working women earn less than $30,000 per year.*

2. Approximately 3 out of 5 working women earn less than $40,000 per year.*

3. Of the 62 million wage and salaried women (age 21-64) working in the U.S., just 45% participated in a retirement plan.**

4. Across all employer retirement plans, men tend to have higher average account balances. The gap gets wider with age – women who are 70+ years have less than half the balance of men the same age.***

5. Women’s earnings average $.79 for every $1 earned by men – a lifetime loss of over $300,000.****

*Information based on US Census PINC08 Chart: Source of Income 2013 – People 15 Years Older & Over, By Income of Specific Type in 2013, Age, Race, Hispanic Origin & Sex (Female, All Races, Earnings).

**U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration: Women and Retirement Savings, August 2013.

***ING Women and Retirement Readiness; US Participant Data, 2013, presented at WISER 2013 Forum. 

****AAUW “The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap” Fall 2015 Edition. 


Recent Studies, 2013-2016



Research Showing Women Make Better Investors


Women’s Financial Security

17 Facts About Womens’ Retirement Outlook (2017): Source: Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies:


  • Forty-two percent of all women lack financial security
  • Three out of five women over 65 cannot afford to cover their basic needs
  • Only 18% of families headed by single mothers have financial security
  • Marriage eases the financial burden, but most women outlive their male partners. Two-thirds of men over 65 live with a partner,  while less than half (44%) of women over 65 live with a partner.
  • The average annual income for an elder man ( $24,300) is almost 75% higher than an elder woman’s annual income ($14,000).
  • The number of older women living in poverty is 50% higher than older men living in poverty.
Source for above stats:  Analysis of U.S. Census data by Wider Opportunities for Women


  • Only 7 percent of women are “very confident” in their ability to fully retire with a comfortable lifestyle.
  • 43 percent of women expect to work past age 70 or do not plan to retire.
  • More than half (52 percent) plan to work after they retire.
  • Most (65 percent) Baby Boomer women do not have a backup plan if forced into retirement sooner than expected.
  • 53 percent expect to self-fund their retirement through 401(k) or other savings and investments.
  • Of women who have or plan to take time out of the workforce to be a caregiver, 74 percent believe that it will negatively impact their ability to save for retirement.
  • 45 percent of women work part-time so are less likely to have workplace retirement benefits.
  • 61 percent of women are offered a 401(k) or similar plan.
  • 75 percent of women who are offered an employee-funded plan participate in the plan.
  • 6 percent is the median contribution of women who participate in their employer’s plan.
  • 55 percent are saving for retirement outside of work in an IRA, mutual fund, bank account, etc.
  • The majority (59 percent) of women who estimate their financial need guess what their retirement savings needs would be rather than using a calculator or advisor.
  • Only 35 percent of women use a professional financial advisor, most (79 percent) doing so for retirement investment recommendations.
  • Many (53 percent) women want information that is easier to understand.
Source for above stats: 14th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers (2014)
Also see Prudential’s 2012-2013 study “Financial Experience and Behaviors Among Women” for more statistics.


Gender Pay Gap for 2013

  • Women earned 78.3 cents for every dollar men earned in 2013, a Census Bureau report released Tuesday [9/16/14] showed. That compares to 76.5 cents a year earlier.
Source for above stats: Wall Street Journal


Women’s Earnings


  • There are 69 million women in the workforce, 10 million of them are their family’s sole breadwinners.
  • Women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.
  • Two-thirds of all working women earn less than $30,000 a year in jobs without pensions
  • Women work an average of 27 years ; men work an average of 40.
  • Because of maternity and family leaves, which total about 13 years, retired women will receive about half the pension benefits retired men will receive.
  • About 20 to 30 years are spent in retirement, and experts suggest you have at least 70 to 90 percent of your pre-retirement income saved for each retirement year to continue your current lifestyle. Women, however, need 100 percent to make up for lower pay, years out of the workforce, and longer lifespan.
  • The average woman can expect to live to 80.1 years old. Men live an average of 74.8 years.
  • Between ages 75 and 84, more than 60 percent of women are single or widowed.  That number jumps to 87 percent after age 85.
  • With the death of a spouse,  women often suffer a large drop in income.
  • In 2004, the median income for retired women was $12,080 compared to $21,102 for men.
  • Social security replaces only about 40 percent of a workers’ prior wages.
Source: What Women Need to Know About Retirement: A joint project of the Heinz Family Philanthropies and the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement


(Click here for More statistics on Women’s Earnings and Income, by 


  • In 2009, nearly 4 in 10 working wives outearned their husbands (Source: 2009 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
  • Women today earn the majority of doctorates and master’s degrees and nearly sixty percent of  U.S. college students are women.
  • In the majority of U.S. cities,  single women ages 22 to 30 without children have a higher median income than their male peers. (Source: An analysis of Census data by Reach Advisors, a market research firm).
  • Women working full time earn 81 cents on the dollar as compared to their male peers working full time.
  • In the past 20 years, the glass ceiling hasn’t moved much. The percentage of women managers rose only 3% (from 35% to 38%). (Source: Philip Cohen,  sociologist, University of Maryland).
Source: Time magazine, “Women, Money and Power,” 3/26/12.


  • Over 40% of women believe that being financially independent would make them intimidating and unattractive to men, and a third believe it can alienate other women.

Source: Allianz Insurance 2013 Women, Money and Power Study (Insights) and White Paper . (Article by MSN Money breaking it down here).


Women, Money and Investing


  • 62 % of women identify themselves as the source of household assets.
  • In the US, Women control about $11.2 trillion of the nation’s investable assets (39% of the country’s estimated $28.6 trillion of investable assets). Nearly half of that, is managed solely by women.
  • 58% of women say that their assets are increasing.
  • for 90% of women 40 and over, “wealth” means financial security.
  • 88% of women want to invest in organizations that promote social responsibility.
  • When it comes to financial confidence, women lag behind men with 19% feeling confident vs. 34% of men, though women do not lag far behind when it comes to financial literacy at 35% vs. 39 of men who say they are financially literate.
Source: Harnessing the Power of the Purse, by the Center for Talent Innovation 2014


Women and Financial Planning


  • Just one-third of women have a detailed financial plan in place, and, among the youngest segment (ages 25-34), just one in 10 has a financial plan in place.
  • One-quarter of women surveyed are the primary financial decision-makers in their households.
  • Fewer than two in 10 women feel “very prepared” to make wise financial decisions. Half indicate that they “need some help,” and one-third feel that they “need a lot of help.”
  • Fifty-six percent of women expect they will need to work longer and postpone retirement.
  • Eighty-six percent of women do not know how to invest or choose a financial product.
Source: Financial Experience &Behaviors Among Women, 2010−2011 Prudential Research Study (article breaking it down here).


In a study of women making over $30,000:

  • 60% of women say they are the primary breadwinner in their households
  • 12% of all women say they have not yet begun saving for retirement

  • 40% of women fear ending up broke and homeless
  • More than half of married women see themselves as the chief financial officer of their households

  • 57% say they primarily handle major investment decisions and retirement planning themselves
  • 50% of divorced women say that financial planning seems an impossible task in their lives.

  • Forty-eight percent of women say that their divorce created a financial crisis, and about two-thirds say that it made them realize the importance of financial awareness and independence.
  • Over 90% of women say feel they need to be more involved in financial planning.
  • 62% of women expressed strong interest in learning more about finances and retirement planning
  • 62% of women still don’t have a financial professional.

  • Of women who have a financial professional, 69% don’t see the professional as their trusted source for financial info. Most seek info from the Internet.
Source: Allianz Insurance 2013 Women, Money and Power Study (Insights) and White Paper . (Article by MSN Money breaking it down here).


Women-Owned Businesses/Women Entrepreneurs

  • The 2016 State of Women in Business Report (2007-2016) American Express OPEN
  • The American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Businesses Report 2013 (here’s a great article that breaks the numbers down: New OPEN Report Shows Phenomenal Growth of Women-Owned Businesses ).
    • As of 2013, it is estimated that there are more than 8.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating over $1.3 trillion in revenues and employing nearly 7.8 million people.
    • From 1997 and 2013, the number of women-owned firms increased by 59%—a rate 1.5 times the national average.
    • 4% of women-owned firms surpass the $500,000 revenue mark.

    • The growth in the number  of women-owned firms over the past 16 years exceeds the growth rates of all but the largest, publicly traded firms—topping the growth rates in number, employment and revenue of all privately held businesses over this period.
    • The number of women-owned businesses with $10 million or more in revenues was found to have grown by 57% between 2002 and 2012, a rate 47% faster than all $10M+ businesses. At the same time, this level of growth applies to companies that women lead (but don’t own) as well: “It is also the case that businesses founded and led by women are growing above and beyond the 51%+ ownership definition.”

The American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Businesses Report: A Summary of Important Trends 1997-2011


Financial Statistics for American Adults


39% of Americans report that money is the biggest stress in their life

39% say they are more stressed about finances now than they were last year 33% report losing sleep worrying about money.

More adults cite regrets about saving and spending (49%) than about shortcomings in all other areas of their life, including taking better care of their physical health, diet and fitness (42%), pursuing different personal relationships (21%), and working more to improve their career (16%).

About 1/3 report they are more worried about their financial health than their physical health.

About 1/3 have some type of financial plan or a simple household budget in place

The biggest obstacle to financial health and saving money:

35% say “knowing the best approach

35% say “sticking to a plan”

Only 9% of respondents said motivation was the biggest barrier for improving financial health.

67% feel in financially good or great shape with regards to paying their monthly bills

56% feel financially good or great in their ability to live within their means.

Only 40% feel financially good or great about their amount of discretionary spending and about their “rainy day” savings.

Only 33% described feeling good or great shape in their ability to retire comfortably.

Conversations about money

71% of adults surveyed learned the importance of saving from their own parents. For a quarter of married or partnered adults (25%), financial concerns have had an impact on these relationships. About a third (33%) have difficulty discussing money with their spouse or partner, and a quarter (25%) often have heated discussions with their significant other about money and household finances.

Gender differences

50% of women find it difficult talking with others about personal finances, versus also less confident about their investment knowledge.

Only 29% of women said they know where to invest in today’s market (compared to 42% of men).

45% of women grade their financial literacy a ‘C’ or below, while 65% of men assess their level of financial literacy as a ‘B’ or higher. Men also express greater confidence in their ability to maintain their standard of living, with 57% feeling in good or great financial shape in this area versus 49% of women.

Source: Wells Fargo’s Financial Health Study 2014


Regardless of income, 70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. (The Wall Street Journal)

40% of Americans will never have a net worth in excess of $10,000 (American Dream Education Campaign)

More than 50% of pre-retired folks underestimate their life expectancy, and 40% of Americans are counting on the lottery, sweepstakes. getting married, or an inheritance to fund their retirement. (Walter Updegrave, Senior Editor of Money magazine)

Source: National Financial Educators Council


Women by the Numbers


Infoplease (collection of statistics from the 2010 U.S. Census on college, motherhood, marriage, etc.)


Articles with stats:


Heard off the Street: Planning for Retirement Can Be Harder for Women

Can Women Bridge the Retirement Savings Gap?


Miscellaneous studies:


Leveling the Playing Field: Upgrading the Wealth Management Experience for Women. By Boston Consulting Group (2010). The gist: 70% of women feel underserved by wealth managers, though women control 27% of the world’s wealth.


Credit Card and Debt Statistics has a comprehensive list of statistics with sources  on credit carddebt, credit card delinquencies, credit scores, credit card interest rates, bankruptcies, average credit card debt and more.




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