Women, part of the wave of baby boomers reaching ‘peak 65,’ are more likely to struggle in retirement, research finds

Personal finance

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The largest cohort of baby boomers is poised to reach age 65 between now and 2030.

And women — who make up 52% of those “peak 65” boomers — are more likely to struggle in retirement compared with their male peers, according to a new economic impact study released by the Alliance for Lifetime Income, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit focused on retirement education.

“There is a very persistent disparity between the assets of men and the assets of women,” said economist Robert Shapiro, study co-author and former undersecretary for economic affairs in the Commerce Department, during a Thursday morning presentation.

From now until 2030, 30.4 million Americans are expected to turn 65.

A majority of those baby boomers are not financially prepared for retirement, according to the research.

As income from employer pensions has largely diminished or disappeared, individuals who enter retirement age are now more dependent on personal savings and Social Security.

Women are not the only peak boomers who are at a greater economic disadvantage, the research found.

People who are Black, Hispanic, or without college degrees are also at higher risk for financial insecurity in this later stage of life, according to the report’s findings.

On the flip side, the peak boomers who are best poised to financially handle the retirement phase of life are men, white people and those with college degrees, the study said. Individuals in those categories are more likely to have multiple types of retirement accounts and larger balances, according to the research.

The median retirement savings for peak boomers is $225,000.

Yet, while the median savings is $269,000 for men, it is just $185,000 for women.

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A shortfall for women shows up in every area of retirement assets, Shapiro noted.

That includes defined contribution plans like 401(k) plans, individual retirement accounts, investments outside of retirement accounts, savings accounts and home equity.

“This shouldn’t be surprising in the sense that there are persistent disparities in earned income between men and women, and savings comes out of earned income,” Shapiro said.

The retirement income gap for women also shows up in other ways, the research found.

For example, the study said there is a disparity of about 33% between the median Social Security benefit for retired peak boomer women and their male counterparts. Men get about $28,400, while women take in $21,400, according to the study.

While boomers of both genders are equally likely to own annuities, the average initial payout is $15,700 for men compared with $13,700 for women, according to the results.

By 2030, an estimated 48,400 peak baby boomers will qualify for Supplemental Security Income, federal benefits for individuals who are 65 and over, disabled or blind and who have little or no income or resources. That is anticipated to include 69% of women versus 31% of men.

To help women become better prepared for retirement, it’s necessary to address the root causes, explained Caroline Feeney, executive vice president and CEO of U.S. businesses at Prudential Financial.

Women today are still earning 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, Feeney said.

Additionally, women live on average six years longer than men, which means they need more savings.

Because women on average often have a lower risk tolerance than men, that typically translates to lower returns on the money they do have set aside.

Moreover, because two-thirds of all caregivers are women, that often requires them to sacrifice income they could otherwise earn for that time.

“You pull all of that together, of course it makes it far more difficult for women to be able to be in a position to live a secure financial retirement,” Feeney said.

While employers can help address those root causes, the financial industry also needs to make expert guidance more appealing to women, she said.

“There are no silly questions, they should rely on the financial experts,” Feeney said. “Unfortunately, we’ve made this a little bit complicated sometimes in terms of our solutions and products.”

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