Common Financial Impacts Facing Women
Karalyn Carlton February 2020

Statistics show that women at retirement often have less saved then men. Not by a little, but by a large margin. 

With more understanding, and perhaps some guidance, here are some tools for a greater chance of success.

It’s never too early to begin financial conversations. People can be deeply influenced by how their families talk—or don’t talk—about money as they grow up. Whether financial decisions are met with stress, silence, anger or ease, can make for life-long patterns. The more conversations around money and financial decisions within the home, the more comfortable people are with the subject of money management.

Equally important is that many families don’t talk about money in a healthy way and most schools don’t offer this education. So why is it that people feel they should “just know these things?” How would they? They will with more sound information and people to talk to.

Women Participate Less in Employer Retirement Plans than Men

  • In a recent study by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, roughly 81 percent of men were saving for retirement through employer-sponsored plans or outside the workplace, compared to just 68 percent of women—a difference partly explained by women being more likely to work in part-time jobs that don’t offer retirement plans. 
  • Among those who worked full time, women contributed less—a median 7 percent of salaries, compared to 10 percent for men. 
  • Women also were less aware of the tax benefits for savings for retirement than men—29 percent to 46 percent, according to the report. 
  • In addition, when women make less than their counterparts for the same position, that factors into less savings. 

Women often take time off in their careers to have a family early on, but also to take care of family members later in life. This comes with financial sacrifice, often leaving women out of the workforce for a decade or more. 

In a Washington Post article, writer Ylan Q. Mui summed it up this way: “Mothers tend to be more productive both before and long after the birth of their children. When that work is smoothed out over the course of a career, the (Federal Reserve) paper found, they are more productive on average than their peers.”

Retirement planning should continue during this time, such as starting a spousal IRA, setting up automatic monthly contributions and keeping career skills current and networks.

Women Find Challenges When Re-entering the Workforce

Return to Work Syndrome is a culmination of the fear, worry, shame, confidence loss and trepidation women experience when returning to work after a prolonged absence. While this most commonly refers to childbirth and motherhood, it can also apply to job loss, chronic illness, family medical leave, active duty service, extended bereavement or a change of personal or professional direction. (tlint.com July 26, 2018 Tracy Saunders)

To minimize these challenges, consider the following: effective networking, sharp resume presentation, preparedness for interviewing and, most of all, demonstrating confidence and competence when presented with opportunities to break through a personal glass ceiling. 

Consider hiring a coach to help you negotiate salary. Research shows that salary transparency can help narrow the pay gap. However, it is tricky, isn’t it? I’d highly recommend listening to the Women at Work podcast on the Harvard Business Review site called “Let’s Talk About Money.” Guests explore the complexities of talking about their salaries. 

The Single Life

  • Single women now outnumber married women. Some 37 percent of American women age 65 and above live alone, compared to 13 percent of men. According to the U.S National Center for Health Statistics, women live an average of five years longer than men. The average age of a widow is 59.
  • One growing trend is “Gray Divorce,” referring to the divorce rate among those over 50, which has increased 109 percent from 1990 to 2015 according to Pew Research. Saving for retirement can be hard enough, and it can be a real strain to manage now two households while continuing to contribute to retirement accounts. 
  • It is estimated that 95 percent of women will be the financial decision maker at some point in their lives. 

Each one of these topics are complex, and for those ready to delve in, there are countless books, podcasts and studies on each of the topics. Some favorite studies and resources on women and retirement planning are:

  • WISER – Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement
  • Harvard Business Review – Women at Work podcast, Gender Gap studies, Let’s Talk About Money
  • Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (19th report)
  • Clear Path Podcast – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth

Steps for Women to Improve Their Retirement Outlook 

The following is an excerpt from Transamerica’s Influences of Gender on Retirement Readiness white paper

The good news is that small steps can lead to great strides in retirement preparedness. Retirement will be unique for each woman, but the tools to help achieve retirement readiness are common to all. No matter your age, now is the time for all woman to focus on achieving a financially secure retirement. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Create a budget that includes income, living expenses, paying off debt and financial goals, such as building short-term savings and long-term retirement savings. 
  • Save for retirement and get into the habit of saving on a regular, consistent basis. Save as much as you can, knowing that both small and large amounts add up and compound over time. 
  • If your employer offers a retirement plan, participate. Be sure to save enough to take full advantage of employer matching contributions, if available. Learn if you are eligible for the Saver’s Credit, an IRS tax credit for people saving for retirement. Consider making catch-up contributions if you are 50 or above. 
  • Develop a retirement strategy and write it down. Then formulate a goal for how much you will need to save each year (be sure to include employer-sponsored retirement plans and outside savings) —and hold yourself accountable for saving. 
  • If faced with caregiving responsibilities for a parent, spouse or other loved one, carefully consider any changes to your work. To help mitigate the impact on your long-term financial security, explore options such as shifting to part-time work. 
  • Maintain your ability to continue working as long as you desire. Keep your job skills up to date and learn new ones. Many employers, community colleges and nonprofits offer classes in the latest technologies and careers. Networking groups offer opportunities to meet more people in particular professions. 
  • Become personally involved in your family finances ranging from daily budgeting to long-term planning. Discuss retirement saving and planning with family and close friends. An open dialogue with family members about expectations of needing to provide or receive financial support should be part of every woman’s retirement strategy. 
  • Get educated about retirement investing and strategies for drawing down savings in retirement. Learn about types of retirement accounts, asset allocation, dollar-cost averaging and the risks of early withdrawals. Become knowledgeable about spending your savings in retirement, including the best time to start receiving Social Security and possible ways to make your savings last throughout your retirement. Seek professional assistance if needed.
  • Have a backup plan in the event of unforeseen circumstances, such as separation, divorce, loss of a partner, or being unable to work before your planned retirement. Consider emergency savings; insurance products such as disability insurance and life insurance; and possible ways to cut costs if needed, such as moving to a smaller home, finding a roommate, scaling back transportation costs, or starting a “side gig.” 
  • Safeguard your health to help make the most of your retirement. Make a habit of eating healthy, exercising regularly, getting plenty of rest and managing stress. Be sure to get routine physicals and recommended health screenings. Seek medical attention when needed. 


Over the years I’ve offered classes on financial planning topics and have met with family members and friends of my clients to provide information and ideas based upon their individual scenario. If you have any questions or would like to talk more in detail about any of these subjects, please contact me.