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Dreams of Living Well in Retirement Dim for Americans

Men continue to outpace women in saving money, a new survey shows. But everyone is saving less.

More Americans are worried about their quality of life in retirement. Confidence about being able to save enough to ensure "a desirable standard of living" dropped this year, according to a new report. The worry was particularly strong among women.

Some 52 percent of individuals surveyed view their retirement prospects negatively, down 3 percentage points from last year. Only 47 percent of women said they were saving enough for their golden years, compared with 57 percent of men.

That gender gap is one of many differences in savings behavior found in the ninth annual America Saves Week survey, released by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). The poll, a representative sample of more than 1,000 nonretired Americans, found gender gaps in 12 areas. A big one: Some 74 percent of men surveyed said they’d made progress in savings, compared with 67 percent of women. The percentage of men reporting good or excellent progress in saving for retirement was also higher, at 44 percent to women’s 36 percent. (To be fair, 10 percent of men and 17 percent of women said they were guessing about how much they'd need to live comfortably in retirement.) 

“The most important reason for the gender gap in savings is differences in income and wealth,” said Stephen Brobeck, the CFA’s executive director, as men’s larger incomes and financial assets make it easier for them to save. As of 2014, the average woman made 79 cents to every man’s dollar. Research also suggests that student debt haunts women longer than it does men. The survey did not ask if respondents included marital assets in their responses to questions about savings.

An October 2015 study by Financial Finesse, a financial education company, found that for a 45-year-old woman's retirement savings to equal a man's, she'd have to save $126 for every $100 the man set aside. The company cited lower Social Security benefits, longer life expectancy, and smaller retirement savings balances because of lower-paying jobs as the big factors leading to a shortfall in retirement savings for women. 

Here are other highlights from the CFA's survey:

  • Forty-nine percent of those surveyed are saving at least 5 percent of their income. That's a decline from last year's poll, where the result was 52 percent, though still higher than 2014's 47 percent. 
  • Forty-three percent say they have automatic savings programs outside of work-sponsored accounts, the same percentage as last year.
  • One bright point is that 38 percent of those surveyed said they had no consumer debt. That's up from 36 percent last year. In 2014, it was 39 percent.
  • More people are getting to know their net worth. In 2016, 47 percent of those surveyed said they knew, up from 43 percent in 2015 and 40 percent in 2014.

 

Women Are $268,000 Short of Retirement