Some 48% of Asian women, 41% of African-American women, 40% of Caucasian women and 40% of Latinas reported that their biggest financial regret was not investing more of their money. The second largest financial regret for African-American and Asian women was not choosing a career with higher pay, and the second largest regret for Caucasian and Latina women was that they had taken on too much credit card debt.

A major contributing factor to the wealth gap is the gender pay gap, the study reports. “For every $1 a man makes, a woman in a similar position earns 82 cents,” the study said. “Women of color face even greater disparities—African-American and Latina women earn 70 cents and 64 cents on the dollar, respectively.

“But that’s only part of the story: The pay gap only considers what women are now earning compared to men. It fails to demonstrate how the pay gap accumulates and compounds over the course of a woman’s life.”

For example, the pay gap does not consider workforce participation. An average woman spends 44% of her adult life out of the workforce while men spend only 28% of the time outside of it.

“Work disruptions and interruptions—often triggered by the need to care for children, parents and spouses—affect a woman’s potential earnings over her lifetime,” the study said. “These gaps become relatively impossible to make up and reach parity with men, who do not take time away from the workforce to provide care.”

When a woman reaches retirement age, she may have earned a cumulative $1,055,000 less than a man who has stayed continuously in the workforce.

In addition, because Social Security is calculated on a woman’s 35 highest earning years and women are twice as likely as men to have at least one zero-earning year count toward their Social Security, women on average receive $4,000 less annually than men in Social Security benefits.

What can change this dynamic? The authors say women need more wealth escalators, which they call “on-ramps for people to build wealth beyond their income.” Such escalators would include higher-paying career choices, fringe benefits like stock options, government benefits and favorable tax codes, all of which have proved to be more easily accessible by men than women.

It’s also critical to break the taboos about the subject of money, discuss and educate people about wealth escalators, encourage women to seek professional financial advice and plan early and often for longer lives.

“In order to maintain this upward trajectory and continue improving women’s financial lives, challenges must be unearthed, understood and addressed, and we can all play a role,” the authors said.

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