Inequities in the workplace and in the home cripple women’s ability to save for retirement, said panelists at the 2016 Morningstar Investment Conference in Chicago. As a result, they need access to advice and more time to plan.
The disparity in earnings between men and women during their working years is the key cause of a gap in retirement savings and income during retirement. However, other issues such as longevity exacerbate the financial divide between the genders as they age, said Mark Miller, a Morningstar retirement columnist.
“The income gap translates directly into the retirement gap,” Miller said at "Securing Retirement Success for Women,” a Tuesday panel discussion. “Women have fewer resources to deal with over a longer period of time.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, the earnings disparity over a lifetime costs women a loss of $430,000, and on average they would have to work 11 years longer than men to close the gap, said Miller.
Women also suffer from an advice deficit, said Cindy Hounsell, president of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating women on retirement issues. She noted that women often don’t participate in conversations with their family’s financial advisor while they're married.
In many instances, women are still completely in the dark about their family finances, even when they are a primary breadwinner — in some cases, intentionally.
“Women are happy in so many families,” Hounsell said. “I once met a Congresswoman who never read her tax return; she just signed her name to whatever her husband brought her. I used to do that, too, because I thought ‘thank God he’s done something.’ The same goes for financial planning.”
When women do attempt to access traditional financial advice, they’re often dissatisfied with what they hear, said Hounsell.
“People start talking about ETFs when they don’t even know what a mutual fund is,” Hounsell said. “Nobody knows the basics, and it doesn’t matter what their income level is. We’ve done studies with nurses, teachers, high-level executives, and they all display the same nervousness around investing.”
As a result, many women aren’t aware that they’ll have to save a larger portion of their income to ensure a successful retirement, and aren’t ready to make independent financial decisions after the death of a spouse or partner, said Hounsell.