While Middle American men and women share similar feelings of financial security, women are more likely to worry about their personal finances and with good reason: they are three times more likely to say they cannot afford to save for retirement, according to a new study from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (MassMutual).
Four in 10 women (39 percent) and 35 percent of men with annual household incomes of between $35,000 and $150,000 report feeling “not very” or “not at all” financially secure, according to the 2017 MassMutual Middle America Men & Women Finances Study1 (Men & Women Finances Study). The internet-based study polled 1,010 middle-income Americans and finds men and women have different saving habits, especially when it comes to retirement. The study is being released to mark 401(k) Day on Sept. 8.
“MassMutual’s research indicates that many women in Middle America are falling behind when it comes to preparing for retirement and building financial security,” said Teresa Hassara, Leader of MassMutual’s Workplace Solutions. “The data indicates an imperative for financial education for Middle American workers, especially women who often face greater financial challenges. Many people realize the need for financial education and say they would appreciate their employers making more such resources available.”
One in two women (51 percent) say they worry at least once a week about money compared to 45 percent of men, according to MassMutual’s Men & Women Finances Study. Women are also more likely to bring those worries to work while men are twice as likely to say they never worry about money, the study finds.
He Saves, She Saves
Men and women differ in their approaches to saving money, especially when it comes to retirement. Both genders overwhelmingly agree they are not saving enough for retirement (74 percent women; 71 percent men) but men tend to be more confident when it comes to being financially secure when they eventually retire. Nearly half of Middle American women (47 percent) say they are “not very” or “not at all” confident about being financially secure in retirement compared to 39 percent of men, the study shows.
Women worry with good reason. Forty-four percent of women in Middle America report they cannot afford to save for retirement compared to 14 percent of men, according to the study. One in four women says they don’t save because their employer either doesn’t match retirement plan contributions or doesn’t offer a compelling match. Twenty-one percent of men say the same, the study finds.
Only two in 10 women report having $10,000 or more in savings for financial emergencies compared to three in 10 men, the study reports. Seventy-three percent of women who are not saving for anything other than retirement say all of their income goes towards monthly expenses and bills; 62 percent of men say the same. Women are also less likely than men to use any extra money to pay off debt (38 percent to 47 percent, respectively).
When they do save, men and women typically take different approaches. Women are more likely than men to save “whatever is left after expenses” (47 percent women; 34 percent men) while men are more likely to save a set amount each month (33 percent women; 44 percent men).
“Men are more likely to ‘pay themselves’ first, an effective habit for saving money,” Hassara said. “While educating women about effective savings strategies can help, women often face bigger challenges because they are typically paid less than men for the same work.”
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) reported that women typically are paid 80 percent of what their male colleagues earn for the same job.2
Those who worry about money at least once a week report negative implications for their health and well-being, especially women. Women are more likely to blame financial concerns for stress (59 percent women; 54 percent men), hurting their social life (43 percent women; 37 percent men), affecting the frequency or quality of their family’s medical or dental care (27 percent women; 17 percent men) and negatively impacting their marriage or romantic relationship (30 percent women; 25 percent men).
Benefits, Education Help
A majority of both men and women say obtaining employee benefits through their employer contributes to feelings of greater financial security, the study reports. Both genders expressed strong interest in employer-provided financial education programs.
“Employers can make a difference in how financially secure their employees feel, not only by offering a broad menu of health and welfare benefits but by offering education programs to help workers make better financial decisions,” Hassara said. “MassMutual also offers financial planning tools that help workers prioritize their benefits by their family’s financial needs as well as their budget. Tools and education are foundational to helping Middle America realize greater financial security, both today and tomorrow.”
1 – 2017 MassMutual Middle America Men & Women Finances Study, https://www.massmutual.com/-/media/files/MM-MW-Financial-Study
2 – Women’s Median Annual Earnings as a Percentage of Men’s Median Annual Earnings for Full-Time, Year-Round Workers, 1960-2015, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), http://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/