What older women don’t know about retirement could certainly hurt them.

Both men and women display startling low financial literacy, but women passed a simple test of financial knowledge at half the rate of men, according to a study focusing on Americans of retirement age by the Bryn Mawr, Pa.-based American College of Financial Services New York Life Center for Retirement Income.

When the center asked 1,244 Americans age 60 to 74 to take a 38-question quiz on retirement income topics, only 35 percent of men and 18 percent of women were able to pass the test by answering 23 questions or more correctly.

Men were able to answer 20 of the questions correctly on average, while women averaged 16 correct answers.

“Women face considerable challenges when it comes to preparing for retirement, and lacking financial literacy certainly does not help the cause,” said Jocelyn Wright, State Farm Chair in Women and Financial Services and assistant professor of women's studies at The American College, in a released statement. “This is a problem, especially when a female at age 65 can expect to live another 20 years on average, two years longer than the average man. With this in mind, women cannot depend on their spouse to hold the keys to their retirement.”

Roughly 74 percent of the overall respondents failed the financial literacy test, posting a median score of 47 percent correct. Only 5 percent of the study’s participants got 80 percent correct or higher. Individuals who reported being the primary financial decision maker within their household had a higher pass rate, according to the college.

The test included sections that asked participants about retirement income strategies, longevity, insurance, annuities, taxes, inflation, housing, health care, long-term care, investing, Social Security and workplace retirement plans. On average, the respondents were able to pass sections on taxes, inflation, housing and Medicare insurance planning, but failed every other section. The study participants posted their lowest scores in sections about annuities, company retirement plans and long-term care.

Men outscored women in 10 of 12 sections, with women displaying higher levels of knowledge on long-term-care expenses and housing issues, and similar levels of knowledge to men in Medicare planning.

While 65 percent of the respondents reported having met with a financial advisor, only 34 percent had a comprehensive written financial plan. According to the American College, individuals worth $1 million or more performed better than all other levels of wealth, yet respondents who worked with a financial advisor tended to have lower levels of financial literacy than their peers.

While women in the survey were just as likely as men to consult an advisor or other third party for financial information, they were more likely than men to want education on budgeting and investment management from their advisors. Women were significantly less likely than men to consult friends and online resources for financial information.

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