Experts already know that women face hurdles and shortfalls when it comes to retirement savings. Now a new study has pinpointed the actual numbers surrounding women’s retirement income deficit.

In fact, women generate just 83% of the retirement income men do, according to the study from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), which cites caregiving, divorce and the gender pay gap as culprits.

The result is that women age 65 and older have a median household retirement income of $47,244, 17% less than the median household income for men ($57,144).

The study from the National Institute on Retirement Security, a nonpartisan think tank funded by financial services institutions and their trade groups, is available here.

"Even before the Covid-19 financial crisis, the nation was facing a retirement saving crisis, with women already at a significant disadvantage," said study co-author Tyler Bond, the institute’s research manager. "As we are on the brink of an economic depression, there is an urgent need to fix the broken retirement infrastructure, especially for women.”

While most Americans are struggling to save for retirement, women face even higher hurdles, largely stemming from the gender pay gap—which eventually becomes a retirement wealth gap, the report asserts. The research also finds that caregiving, especially spousal caregiving, has a more detrimental economic impact on women, while divorce can cut retirement income and benefits and add to costs that were once shared.

“Going forward, policy makers would be prudent to implement meaningful reforms,” Bond said. “For example, changes to Social Security would make a significant difference in retirement outcomes for women—expanding benefits, adjusting spousal benefits and providing caregiving credits.”

He also suggested that states adopt stronger family leave policies to make it less punitive for women to take time out of the labor force to provide caregiving. He also advocates the creation of a universal savings vehicle for all workers to give more women a vehicle to save for their retirement, even if their employer does not offer a plan.

"When considering gender differences in retirement income, it is important to remember that women typically live longer than men as well," said report co-author Joelle Saad-Lessler, an associate professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

As a result, women's retirement costs over their lifetime are significantly higher because they have to pay for more years of retirement and often spend more years being single in retirement, Saad-Lessler added.

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