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OVERVIEW
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

"That means you'll be earning less and will have lost crucial years that you could have been adding to your 401(k) and earning years of service that would get you a higher return," Wall says.

Women are stuck with more chores
Women who continue to work while caring for children often find themselves in the unenviable position of being the babysitter, house cleaner, cook and laundress in addition to their full-time jobs. And that leaves less time to contemplate investments or retirement planning.

Astre had a couple as clients who had differing levels of involvement in their workplace retirement plans. The husband was very involved in his, while the wife had no idea where her contributions were going.

"In my office, she turned to her husband and said, 'You get home from work, you sit on the couch, open a beer and that's the end of your day. I've got to make dinner, do the laundry, take care of the kids and go shopping,'" says Astre.

"And it's true. Meanwhile I felt guilty -- that's what I do at home."

Women are short on savings
Even though women today have more opportunities to guide their own financial ships, not all are taking the helm. Research and anecdotal reports from financial planners report that many women, whether single or married, are not adequately preparing for their own retirements.

A study from the Retirement Security Project, "Retirement Security for Women: Progress to Date and Policies for Tomorrow," compared the retirement accounts of men and women and found that women's accounts reflect about half or less of the balance of men's accounts on average.

Women are ambivalent about finances
In her experience, Certified Financial Planner Nancy Gardner has found that a significant portion of married women of all ages cede control of their financial future to their husbands.

"They find finances boring so they just let their husbands handle it," she says.

Single women of all of ages also take an avoidant and slightly delusional approach, she says.

"They think that they will never have the money to retire, so they don't want to think about it," she says.

"I have actually had people tell me when I ask what their retirement plan is, and they tell me in all seriousness, 'Marry well,'" Gardner says. "And that is all age categories. It is really sad."

The antidote to the gender-specific retirement conundrum comes down to instilling a financial education and, apparently, a healthy dose of self-sufficiency in women.

A study by Prudential titled "Financial Experience and Behaviors among Women" found that women who have been preparing for their financial future feel less stressed about retirement than those who are way behind or who haven't started yet. Only 10 percent of the prepared women report that they worry often about the future compared to 53 percent of the other group.

-- Posted: July 30, 2008
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