Female Workers Aren't Saving Enough for Retirement -- Here's How to Change That
Whether retirement is decades away or just around the corner, saving for your work-free years may not be at the top of your mind while you’re going through your nine-to-five -- especially, a new report shows, if you’re a woman.
According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s annual Workplace Benefits Report, a whopping 71 percent of women are worried about retirement, compared to 58 percent of men. What’s more, 61 percent of women believe they will have to work longer than they’d planned to make ends meet, while just 51 percent of men feel the same. “Female employees also contribute less to their 401(k) and have $119,000 in investable assets on average, compared to $196,000 for men,” the report says.
Leanne Jacobs, financial wellness expert and author of Beautiful Money, says any number of factors could contribute to why women are saving less for retirement, from the gender wage gap to lost wages if a woman choose to stay at home to raise her kids. Jacobs explains, “Women also tend to invest less than men do and for some, worry more about the stock market and feel less confident than [men] investing and managing their money.”
The good news is that any woman can find better financial footing and start saving for retirement ASAP. Here are simple steps you can take today.
1. Calculate your net worth.
“Women are often nervous to take a high-level snapshot of their money,” Jacobs says. “They fear that their debt just might be overwhelming, so they often avoid calculating net worth.” But Jacobs says knowing your net worth -- what you have in assets after subtracting your debts -- is “the fastest way to make subtle shifts to accelerate savings and financial growth.” After all, Jacobs points out, you may have more money to invest than you think you do. And if you don’t, knowing your starting point can push you in the direction of paying down debt.
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While you can work with a financial professional, it’s easy enough to crunch these numbers on your own: total up your assets (hings such as your investments, home or car you own, and anything else that you could turn into cash) and your liabilities (credit card debt, school loans, car payments and other debts). Then, subtract your liabilities from your assets. That number is your net worth. According to Jacobs, now that you have that number, no matter how high or low or even upsetting that it may be, “it gives you a starting point to grow from and helps to create a loving sense of urgency for growing that number now.”
2. Know your credit score.
Another number you need to know before you start saving is your credit score. Why? That number is like a grade, Jacobs explains, that you can work to improve. “Doing your score at least once a year will help you clearly understand and measure the progress you’ve made,” she says. “It will also help you create better habits, like paying your bills on time, and make you a better money manager.” (And with that confidence, you may find it easier to invest your money for retirement.) Some banks and credit card companies now include a free credit score estimate as part of their services. You can also request a credit score once a year from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, by using the website Annual Credit Report.
3. Automate your savings.
Now that you have a clearer picture of your financial situation, it’s time to start saving for retirement. But here’s the thing: if you have to think about doing it, chances are you won’t.
Jacobs suggests automating your savings to ease your retirement worries. If your company offers a 401(k), you can ask that a certain amount -- usually, a percentage of your paycheck -- be directly deposited into an account of your choice. If it doesn’t offer a 401(k), work with a bank to set up an IRA or a Roth IRA, and schedule a monthly direct deposit from your checking account into that one.
“Even if you start small, you will see your wealth account grow each week which will create the power and momentum you need to want to save even more,” encourages Jacobs.
4. Think creatively.
If you’ve done everything above and you still feel like you’re not saving enough, Jacobs says, you may want to look for ways to add income to increase your savings. While you may not be able to take on another job, she suggests asking yourself, “What skills, passions or hobbies do you have that can [make money] on a few hours a week? We have more down time than we think, and if we look at that time as [money making] opportunity time, the sky’s the limit.”
(By Jillian Kramer)