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Retirement unfair to fair sex
Women have come a long way, but many forces put them at a disadvantage when it comes to saving for retirement.
Securing retirement

Why retirement is different for women

"In general, the male clients I see a lot of times just think that whatever it is that they want to achieve, they can do it. When I'm dealing with women, they don't have the self confidence to think that they can actually do it," she says.

Her experiences may be generationally biased though, she says. "The clients that I see this in are a little bit older -- maybe in their 60s or 70s."

Women are too giving
In many respects, retirement planning for women looks the same as retirement planning for men.

"There are no special mutual funds for women. There is no insurance policy for women.

"The difference is the need," says Patrick Astre, Certified Financial Planner and author of "This is Not Your Parents' Retirement." "We find that women have a greater need to engage in financial planning than men."

Certain characteristics endemic in the female population conspire against them when it comes to investing. For instance, they tend to take care of everyone else in the family before considering their own needs.

As an example, says PNC's Silverman, "Women are more likely to feel like it's more important to save for their children's college."

Rappaport concurs. "When they are taking care of kids or parents, they are probably quicker to say, 'I will use the money for someone else and not use it for myself.'

"We are not saying that women should think about going to the beauty salon, but saying, 'Think about your long-term security and retirement and make sure you have resources for your retirement,'" she says.

Women are disadvantaged at work
Cultural forces don't favor women in the retirement savings arena either.

"Women make less money than men. It's unpleasant, but a fact of life," says Astre. "There is also a glass ceiling; women often don't get as many promotions as men."

Whether women are paid less than men due to poor salary negotiating, career choices or institutional biases, the end result is that they not only have less to save but their Social Security payout is less. They put in fewer years at work and lose out on years of paying into a pension or defined contribution plan.

On top of everything else, most women have children during vital career-development years.

"If you drop out of the work force to take care of children, that is probably going to be a time in your late 20s or early to mid-30s, when your male colleagues who stay in the work force are getting promotions and climbing the ladder," says Ginita Wall, CPA, CFP and co-founder of WIFE.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing financial education to women.

For women who choose to take time out to raise children, losing those working years means that they return to the work force at the same level they were at years before, maybe even with obsolete skills -- putting them further behind in their careers and savings.

-- Posted: July 30, 2008
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