Women are less prepared for retirement than men, with nearly $41,000 less saved on average than their male counterparts, according to a recent survey commissioned by the ING Retirement Research Institute.

The study, "Retirement Revealed," points out the realities women encounter when saving and preparing for retirement, and underscores that women on average are significantly less prepared for retirement than men.

Among men and women who have savings in or outside of an employer-sponsored retirement plan, men have substantially more saved than women--$149,000, on average--compared to women, who average $108,000 in total savings, according to the study. For women with children at home, their retirement savings figure dropped even further, to $88,000.

A key driver of total retirement savings is the percent of salary that individuals contribute to their employer-sponsored retirement plan, according to the study. ING's study found that more women (42%) than men (34%) contributed just one to five percent of their salary into their plans. Fewer women (25%) than men (33%) have a formal investment plan to reach their retirement goals. In addition, well over half (56%) of women do not feel financially prepared for retirement, compared to only 42% of men.

"It is clear that many women--regardless of their age or life stage--must do more to save for their retirement," said Maliz Beams, CEO of ING U.S. Retirement. "The combination of living longer and saving less can hamper a woman's ability to reach her goals."

The study found that mothers also face further hurdles to build their retirement security. While the income gap between men and women has narrowed in recent years, mothers tend to spend more time out of the workforce due to caregiving responsibilities. This reduces their earning and savings potential and lowers Social Security benefits.

The majority (60%) of mothers do not feel prepared for retirement and almost half (46%) don't know how to achieve their retirement goals. Just over half (53%) of mothers have less than $25,000 saved in their employer-sponsored retirement plan. Less than two-thirds (65%) of mothers are receiving their employer's full company match compared to more than three-quarters (76%) of fathers.

ING's study also points out that single women are more self-reliant for financial planning. The percentage of single women 18 years or older in the U.S. has more than doubled in the last fifty years from 12% to 25%, according to the Washington D.C.-based Pew Research Center.

Among this group, ING's research found that: More single women (69%) said they relied on their own research or family and friends for financial guidance than married women (63%) and single women were less likely to work with a financial professional (21%) than married, divorced or widowed women (31%); less than three-in-ten (28%) have calculated how much they'll need to retire, compared to half (50%) of men; and approximately one quarter (26%) of single women spent some or a lot of time thinking about retirement, compared to a greater number (44%) of widowed/divorced women.

Study findings were culled from an online survey conducted by ORC International from Oct. 5 to Oct. 13. Respondents were 4,050 adults between the ages of 25 and 69 who are employed full-time with an annual household income of $40,000 or greater.

More information on the study is available at ing.us/rri/ing-studies/what-about-women.

--Jim McConville