In October, Prudential Financial released a "financial wellness census" that found women, on average, save 43 percent less for retirement than men. To anyone paying attention, this wasn't entirely surprising, as previous studies have reached the same conclusion.

Why is this disparity such a persistent problem?

Some studies point to the simple fact that women continue to make less money than men. But some people who have studied the issue say there is more going on under the surface.

For many women, societal taboos may be keeping them from being as financially assertive as men. "Folks will say that there is a wealth gap because of the wage gap, but there is also a confidence gap," said Marguerita (Rita) Cheng, CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth in Gaithersburg, Md., who has written extensively about the retirement savings gap. 

Cheng insisted there is a "money silence," especially among women. This silence, Cheng said, "prevents women from discussing money matters. While women have gained influence and affluence, these taboos hold women back."

Indeed, a recent Federal Reserve study found that 60 percent of college-educated, not-yet-retired men are comfortable managing their investments, while only 35 percent of women can say that.

What can be done to close the gap, to better prepare women for retirement expenses? What should advisors do better or differently?

"Financial professionals have a key role to play here in helping women to develop retirement income strategies that meet their retirement goals and help women to realize the lifestyle they want in retirement," said Sluyter. "[But] 66 percent of women don’t work with a financial advisor, either because they believe they can’t afford it or [they believe] they don’t have adequate resources to warrant an advisor’s help."

No doubt advisors can do a better job of meeting women clients' needs, too. "Sure, women—no matter their age or relationship status—should take a more [active] role in their financial lives," said Cheng. But, she stressed, it's also important for advisors to "create a judgment-free zone for women to ask questions, so they can feel more financially confident and empowered."

Women, she said, tend to think in a "more relational manner, as opposed to a linear" manner, than men. They often prefer a "holistic and comprehensive approach toward managing money," she added. "Financial advisors should invite women to be part of the conversation."

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