On the face of it, it does appear that yes, women are still saving less money than men. According to the 17th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey, and a subsequent write up in Forbes magazine, “compared to men, women are: saving far less for retirement, worrying a good deal more and calling retirement saving a lower financial priority.” This is a statement also backed up by a 2016 report by CreditDonkey.com, which says, “Women are not saving for retirement or putting money away for a rainy day”. To refer to some statistics from the same report; “63% of women said that they were not currently saving for retirement, and over 55% said that they had no saving strategy currently in place”.
The question to be asked in the face of these statics is of course; Why? Why are women saving less than men?
There are a number of external social and economic factors that influence women’s saving ability. One of these is pointed out by the Transamerica Report, saying that most workers in America are offered a 401(k) or other self-funded plan by their employers; however, men (at 73%) have greater access to these plans, compared to only 68% of women. In the UK it is now mandatory for all businesses to enrol their staff on a Workplace Pension Scheme. However, the % of your salary that you wish to pay is left up to the individual to decide.
Another social factor influencing women’s ability to save, is the need for them to take career gaps. This often leads to women rejoining the workforce on reduced hours, or reduced salaries, in order to meet childcare needs and to combat the spiralling costs. For many people on average working salaries, paying for full time childcare is just not an option as it is too expensive. In comparison, men are far more likely to be able to continue their career trajectory uninterrupted. This is something that needs to be urgently addressed in all countries. Shared paternity and maternity leave is slowly becoming more standard, but the sharing of the financial responsibilities of parenthood need to go even further to ensure that women are not penalised for their biology.
A recent report by Zurich on pension savings highlighted yet another potential reason for why women are not able to save as much as men. It found that women will end up with a pension pot “worth an average £47,000 less than their male counterparts”. This is specifically due to the well-documented gender pay gap, as well as men being 10% more likely than women to be promoted to management positions.
Interestingly though, the Zurich report analysis also found that only 30% of women over the age of 18 have started saving for retirement, compared to 38% of men. Additionally, women are less likely to invest their savings, with only 17% of women investing in the stock market, compared to 31% of men. Of course, the stock market is not always a ‘sure fire winner’, but to understand how and where to invest your money in order to ensure slow and stable growth is a skill that (seemingly) women are still not engaging with.
Finally, what is probably the most notable statistic of all to take away from the Transamerica Survey, is that 53% of women polled (compared to just 36% of men), say that their GREATEST FINANCIAL PRIORITY is “just getting by – covering basic living expenses”. If it is the case, then 1 in 2 women are in a financial position where they are only able to live paycheque to paycheque, or plan only for the near future. This means that looking ahead to plan and invest for their long term future is just not a possibility. This is a worrying statistic, as it will have ramifications for society as whole if women are not offered the tools to create stable financial futures for themselves and their families.