Women and the Retirement Gap - Are You Getting Lost in the Cracks?

BlogHer Original Post

Even in the changing face of retirement (we're not just all sitting around, traveling, and playing golf anymore, but rather engaging in new careers), women are faced with a monetary gap. While the wage gap obviously has an impact on retirement, there are more factors at play that seem part of the "gotcha" for women of retirement age. So, what is really going on, and what can you do about it no matter what your age?

There is no shortage of women's self-help when it comes to money, but putting that knowledge into action seems to be part of the problem. Wallet Pop's recent article "3 Tips to Help Women Close the Retirement Gap" notes a recent study by the Boston Consulting Group that reveals:

According to the study, women are the key decision-makers when it comes to 27% of the wealth worldwide: that's $20 trillion! But despite the massive chunk of power they wield, 55% of the women surveyed in the study said they felt their wealth manager could do a better job of advising them.

What this says to me is that there is still a problem with experts in the financial industry taking women seriously. Money talks -- women are increasingly becoming more powerful monetarily and otherwise, yet a big gap remains where a huge financial upside could be. While it is easy to blame advisors for not taking women seriously or serving them as fully as they deserve, women need to rise up in their own willingness to step up, communicate and ask for what they need. If your current advisor doesn't meet your needs, find a new one. People who understand your needs and can deliver for you exist. I am blessed to have one of those advisors, but it took me several missteps to find her (and yes, those missteps cost me money, but I am more determined than most!).

The wage gap and retirement gap is a hot topic that gets very personal very fast. First, let's ground in facts. According to the 2010 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index 2010 Rankings, the United States comes in number 19th with a .74 score (where a 1.0 would mean full equality). This is up incrementally (and I mean infinitesimally incrementally) yearly from a 2006 score of .70. Compare this to Iceland which tops the rankings with an .849. So the gap exists no doubt about it.

As for "why" it exists, that could fill books (and has). There is the motherhood gap theory. There are the blame the patriarchy theories. There are rants about ignorant college women blaming the power of choice as the reason for pay inequity. But the bottom line is that it is due to a myriad of factors. I think Susan Campbell sums it up well in "Who Makes More Money: Men? Or Women?":

And please don't tell me the usual reasons women earn less than men: That we take lower-paying jobs (I didn't); that we take off time to raise children (I didn't do that, either), or that we refuse to negotiate for higher salaries (ask my last four bosses how shy I was about that).

Now we could argue all day about "why" or simply get moving. Same thing with retirement - we can either sit around and whine about not knowing enough, not getting served well enough, or whatever ... OR we can get off our butts, educate ourselves, and demand to be served fully. I realize this looks different for different women based on their education or life circumstances. Yet, you can only start right where you are ... so start. And start right away. Much like savings compound over time, so does knowledge. And knowledge is not subject to the whims of stock markets that swing like wild monkeys.

Here are some excellent resources to get you started:

Remember ... like much of life, planning for retirement and living/enjoying right now is a delicate balance. It is like the ultimate crap shoot because tomorrow is guaranteed for no one, yet you have to plan as if it is. Be gentle with yourself, get educated, and take the steps you need to all while living fully today.


Paula Gregorowicz is the Life Alchemytm Success Coach and helps women discover, reinvent, and refine their careers and businesses so they can live and succeed on their own terms. Learn more about how you can be a woman of unshakable confidence and grab the free eCourse 5 Steps to Turn Your Fear into Freedom at her website www.thepaulagcompany.com

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