Women More Likely to Be Poor

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women more likely to be poorThis post originally appeared on DailyFinance.

When it comes to saving and spending, the news is not good for women.

SaveUp.com, an online financial rewards program for saving and paying down debt, recently analyzed a representative sample of more than 20,000 of their users’ savings and debt balances. The results reveal a sobering reality: Women are more likely than men to be poor during their lifetimes.

If you’re surprised, you wouldn’t be alone — the women who took the survey are right there with you. When asked which gender they think is better at saving, more than 73 percent of women said females were.

The SaveUp U.S. Consumer Savings and Debt Report, released on Tuesday, finds that the average man has more in their 401(k), IRA, taxable investment accounts and CDs:

Type of AccountMenWomen
Avg. 401k$50,632$39,320
Avg. IRA$8,456$4,916
Avg. Taxable Investment$72,390$55,668
Avg. Certificate of Deposit$30,374$7,459
Avg. Money Market Investment$11,157$13,225

Source: SaveUp.com

Not only are men saving more in general, but they are saving more aggressively for retirement-related goals.

Men in the survey have 28.8 percent more than women in their 401(k)s and 72 percent more in their IRAs. The only type of account in which women average a higher balance than men is in a money market account — a conservative, low-growth investment.

What’s Behind the Savings Gap?

The simple answer to the question is “income disparity.” According to the American Council on Education, depending on their race and where they live, women make between $0.57 and $0.77 for every dollar men make. This not only makes it harder for women to save than men, but their retirement contributions through their employer will be substantially lower.

Another thing that may be holding women back is student loan debt. Women with student loans in the SaveUp study carried somewhat more debt from higher education than men who had student loans ($41,405 versus $39,104 for men).

Even in planning for the future, women shortchange their goals. According to a 2010 Harris Interactive poll cited by Forbes, when women were asked to put a dollar figure on the amount they were trying to save for retirement, the median was $200,000 compared to the men’s median goal of $400,000.

Closing the Gap

One area of money management where women are doing better is in managing what SaveUp calls “non-asset building debt,” which includes credit card debt, car loans and lines of credit.

According to the study, the average debt-bearing woman owes $34,645 versus $42,842 owed by the average debt-bearing man. Digging deeper into the debt numbers reveals that men have nearly one-third more in car loan debt than women.

In addition to keeping debt under control women can also improve their balances by increasing the amount they save for retirement. On that note, the picture for women is improving. A study by MassMutual showed that women are gradually increasing their retirement savings. And while in the fourth quarter of 2012 the average account balance for a female was 38.25 percent of the average account balance of a male, that’s actually an improvement of 5.6 percent compared to a similar MassMutual study in 2010.

To close the gap between men and women, SaveUp recommends that women:

1. Negotiate for increased wages.
2. Increase their monthly savings goals.
3. Keep unsecured debt low.
4. Invest in higher education and career growth.
5. Increase their exposure to market returns on their long-term savings.

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