While the gender gap in retirement saving is often linked to the unequality of men’s and women’s salaries, a recent survey by Willis Towers Watson suggests that behavior might explain some of the differences in the genders' 401(k) balances.

Men are more likely to prioritize retirement saving than women, but both genders are feeling increasingly pessimistic about their prospects for retirement, according to Willis Towers Watson’s 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey, released Wednesday.

When nearly 5,000 U.S. workers were asked about their top financial priority, 60 percent of the men named saving for retirement, compared with 44 percent of the women.

“Saving for retirement is a significant challenge for the vast majority of working Americans,” said Shane Bartling, senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson, in released comments. “Varying financial needs make it difficult for many men and women to build a retirement nest egg. While our survey finds that women place a lower priority on saving for retirement than men do, we believe it’s a question of, ‘Am I able to save for retirement?’ rather than, ‘Is it important to save for retirement?’”

More women in the survey named meeting daily living costs, 64 percent, or paying off debt, 57 percent, as financial priorities, leaving retirement their third most pressing issue.

Young women without children were more likely to prioritize retirement, according to the survey, and married women without children under the age of 18 were more likely to rank retirement saving as a primary financial goal. According to Willis Towers Watson, most U.S. workers seem to wait until their 40s and 50s to prioritize retirement saving, when their other financial needs have been addressed.

Women were less confident than men in their ability to weather the costs of retirement. While 54 percent of men felt like they would have enough resources to survive 25 years of retirement, only 39 percent of women felt the same.

Men and women alike seem to be feeling less optimistic about their retirement, according to the survey. In the 2017 survey, 57 percent felt confident that they would have enough financial resources to live comfortably through 15 years of retirement, down from 69 percent in 2015.

Willis Towers Watson noted that, through 2015, retirement confidence had been rising steadily since 2009, when 61 percent of the survey participants were confident that their resources would last 15 years.

In the 2017 survey, 37 percent of U.S. respondents said that they expected to work beyond the age of 70, up from 30 percent in 2015. Similarly, 26 percent of the 2017 respondents said that they would be able to retire before age 65, down from 29 percent in 2015.

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