The researchers also found that one-third of women over age 65 are widows. Household income tends to drop faster than household expenses when a spouse dies, according to the report, which may leave the surviving spouse unable to fit their lifestyle into their income.

Women also face more time limitations than men. Women are more likely to be responsible for the lion’s share of household tasks, spend more time doing unpaid work than men, and are almost twice as likely to be a caretaker for a friend or family member than men.

Debt, Procrastination And Pessimism

Debt has also become a significant obstacle to women’s retirement success—especially student loan debt. Women are more likely to graduate with “excessive” debt, defined as debt levels that are 10% or more than their monthly gross income. Twenty-nine percent of women and 24% of men graduate with excessive debt.

Some of the retirement-income gap is behavioral, as the researchers found signs of procrastination among women. Women are less likely to set retirement goals than men are.

Prudential’s qualitative research has found that the earnings, Social Security and savings gap has led to higher levels of financial pessimism among women. Earlier this year, 25% of the women in a Prudential survey reported that they don’t think they will ever be able to retire, compared with 14% of men.

But the report’s authors also found that, as things currently stand, women are less likely to work past the age of 65 than men. While one-in-five men works past 65, only one-in-seven women do the same. The authors expect that gap to close by 2024.

In the meantime, the researchers suggest that employers and advisors may want to focus on helping their employees retire at the age they want. Not only do delayed retirements negatively impact the morale of other employees and create difficulty in recruiting and retaining new talent, but “research and analysis regarding the impact of delayed retirements on employers’ costs have shown that, using national averages for private sector workers, a one-year increase in the average retirement age results in an average annual incremental run rate of about 1%–1.5% of workforce costs. This is about half the average annual employer cost of running a defined contribution plan.”

Building Women Better DC plans

The researchers also called for more engagement and education of plan participants, including the addition of financial wellness programs to defined contribution plans. While wellness programs may improve the financial health of all participants, they can also be “designed to address the needs of specific employee segments, such as female employees, and to provide a combination of education, guidance, tools, and solutions that help improve financial health.”