Originally published: 3/15/2018.
The latest Transamerica Retirement Survey in 2016 found women save less for retirement, a lot less, than men. In fact, the survey found women have $34,000 in household retirement savings (the same as in 2012), while men boast a whopping $115,000--up from $50,000 in 2012.
And yet women may be more savvy investors. Reuters in 2017 reported that women's portfolio returns are 0.40% ahead of men's. So why the disparity?
Turns out, while men have prioritized retirement savings, women prioritized family--by focusing on basic living expenses. Of course, gender disparity takes a bite, too. Women earn 79 cents on average to men's dollar. Plus, they typically put in less time in the workforce overall than men, taking out chunks for maternity leave and/ or reducing hours for child or family care.
But women can and should catch up their retirement savings. Here's five ways to do it:
- Invest in your workplace retirement plan. Women who previously were more concerned with capital than aggressive saving should invest fully in their employee retirement plan or 401(k). If you go part time due to child care or family responsibilities or take time off like maternity leave, don't stop saving--even a reduced amount. And if you become ineligible to participate in your work plan because of part time hours, open an IRA to save the maximum. In 2018, that's $5,500. What's more, if you're 50 or over, you can make catch up contributions that can help rev up savings--$6000 for a 401(k) and $1,000 extra to your IRA.
- Learn more about retirement investing. In 2016 U.S. News and World Report advised that the best way to learn is by doing. Open a brokerage account, invest some money and get a feel for how it works. Invest in companies you care about or whose products you use or people you admire.
Having a stake in something “personal" helps provide a connection between you and your investments besides money. Plus, you're likely to learn more when you follow the company news, understand how the product works, or track the company on social media.
- Up your retirement contributions if you can. If your contributions to your retirement savings are matched by your employer, contribute up to your company match. Otherwise you're leaving money on the table. Also, consider raising the percentage of salary you invest. If you're currently contributing 5%, think about boosting that to six or seven. At the very least, sign up for auto increase, which automatically increases your contribution percentage 1% annually. Make investing as easy as electronic bill paying by setting contributions to automatic monthly or quarterly payments. And make sure you're investing according to your objective, age and risk tolerance.
- Calculate how much you need to retire. The 2016 Adult Financial Literacy Report from the Champlain College Center for Financial Literacy, found most of us earn a C average when it comes to figuring out how much money we'll need one day. Instead, use a free retirement calculator to plug in the actual values of retirement expenses and account balances to find how much money you'll need to retire.
- Talk to your widowed, divorced or retired women friends and family to find out what they're doing. Finally, one incredible source of wisdom and experience is right in your own backyard—the women who have successfully gone before you. Even though a financial conversation may feel awkward, broach the subject with trusted women and ask for tips. They can often reveal unique and varied strategies for retirement savings success. Many women you know can offer tips from how to invest unexpected windfalls and tax returns to how they allocate funds in their retirement savings plan.
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