Gender differences—In Retirement


You may have read that women are far more likely to face poverty in retirement than their male counterparts—but you may not realize just how big the disparity is.  In fact, women are 80% more likely to fall into poverty toward the end of their lives, compared to men, according to a 2016 study by the National Institute on Retirement Security.

In an attempt to explain how this came about, the study’s researchers noted that women are more likely than men to engage in part-time unemployment due to starting a family and staying at home with the kids, and at the other end of their lives, they have much higher rates of caregiving for elderly parents.  Men, on the other hand, can enjoy an uninterrupted work career, making them more likely to receive promotions and career opportunities.

Even if you take away this disadvantage, there’s another one.  During their working years, women earn, on average, 80 cents for every dollar their male colleagues earn—for the same jobs.

But…. Isn’t this changing as we become a more gender-aware society?  Apparently not.  If you look at the accompanying chart, you’ll see that women were catching up to male pay scales from 1979 until about 1993, at which point the gains seemed to totally stall out.  And women still make up 66% of all caregivers for elderly parents.  Even when men provide assistance, the Family Caregivers Council estimates that women spend as much as 50% more time than the men do in caregiving activities.

And 2015 data adds that 48% of women above age 75 live alone, compared with less than a quarter (22%) of men at a comparable age.  After caregiving for others, women are less likely to receive it for themselves.

About the Author: Bob Veres has been a commentator, author and consultant in the financial services industry for more than 20 years.  Over his 20-year career in the financial services world, Mr. Veres has worked as editor of Financial Planning magazine; as a contributing editor to the Journal of Financial Planning; as a columnist and editor-at-large of Dow Jones Investment Advisor magazine; and as editor of Morningstar’s advisor web site:

Mr. Veres has been named one of the most influential people in the financial planning profession by Investment Advisor magazine and Financial Planning magazine, was granted the NAPFA Special Achievement Award by the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, and most recently the Heart of Financial Planning Distinguished Service Award from the Denver-based Financial Planning Association. 


Highlights of women’s earnings in 2016 : BLS Reports: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

In 2016, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median usual weekly earnings that were 82 percent of those of male full-time wage and salary workers.

Women and Caregiving: Facts and Figures

Most older persons with long-term care needs-65%-rely exclusively on family and friends to provide assistance. 1 Another 30% will supplement family care with assistance from paid providers. 2 Care provided by family and friends can determine whether older persons can remain at home.


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