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How to protect the quality of your retirement as a woman

Don't let the Gender Pension Gap put you at risk of not living the life you want in retirement.

 

The Gender Pension Gap is a real threat to women's quality of life in retirement.

Here are 6 steps you can take to close the gap and protect your retirement.  

How to Protect your Retirement: 6 Action Steps

Although the media focuses on the wage gap it is the gender pension gap which is larger, growing and threatens women with poverty in retirement. 

 

The Pension Gap is the result of: (1) time out of the work-force to care for children and parents, (2) the wage gap, (3) not investing enough. A working woman needs to contribute 18% of her salary to a man’s 10% to achieve the same outcome at retirement. Here are six steps you can take to close the gap. 

6 Action Steps for Women to Protect their Retirement 

1. Save as much as possible.

Set up an Emergency Fund and limit debt. ​

2. Learn about investing.

Saving by itself will not fund your retirement.

3. Invest. Start early (now works!) with as much as is responsible.

Invest at the proper risk-reward level for your personal needs and goals.

4. Contribute to your retirement plan. 

Maximize any available match, and continue contributing during any leave.

 

​5. Fund an individual retirement account.

Supplement your pension, or provide your own plan if self-employed.

6. Take Action. 

Don't wait for or depend on an employer, partner or government.

 

Understanding and Eliminating the Gender Pension Gap 

The Facts & the Dangers 

  • Women in developed countries receive lower retirement pensions than men.*[i]​

  • Pension payments were 28% lower for women than for men across the United States and European OECD countries, and 39% on average in the EU. [ii] 

  • ​The gender pension gap makes it difficult for women to leave abusive relationships.[iv]

  • ​The pension gap puts women at risk of poverty in retirement.

The Gender Gap is Global

​Pension gaps are greatest in countries where workplace pensions make up a large portion of retirement savings, or where government benefits – social security in the United States – are linked to employment-related contributions.  ​In the Netherlands, 75% of working women work less than 35 hours per week - almost twice the average in the European countries.[v]  Consequently, the gender pension gap is the widest.

Government Pensions will Not be Enough 

​The world’s six largest pension systems - the US, UK, Japan, Netherlands, Canada and Australia - will have a joint shortfall of USD $224 trillion by 2050.[vi] This figure includes corporate, public and individual pensions. ​$78 trillion is the total value of unfunded or underfunded government pension liabilities for the 20 OECD countries.[vii] The ramifications are severe. The U.K. fears the pension age could rise to 80 years old. [viii] In the Netherlands, Dutch retired armed forces veterans went to court in 2016 to demand a solution to their pension shortfalls following the government's decision to raise the pension age to 67. [vix]

The global pension funding gap and ongoing reform to European pensions – designed to tie pension benefits more closely to individual contributions and income, is likely to widen the gender pension gap. ​The accelerating shift from public to private responsibility for retirement funding sets up a higher hurdle for women, who tend to be more cautious in investing than required to fund their longer longevity.

Young Female Professionals at Increased Risk  

​More than any prior generations' the pensions of these women will depend on what they personally contribute and grow.  ​Young women will need to invest more aggressively then may be inherently comfortable, in terms of both amount and risk, to meet their retirement funding needs. Early education is key to address the mismatch between women's longevity and relatively conservative investment risk tolerance.

The Freelancer Pension Problem & Women

Globally, women account for 60% of freelance workers - the fastest growing labor group. In the U.K. the number of self-employed women grew at twice (11.9%) the pace of growth for men (6.3%).  ​In many countries, freelancers have no pension.[vii] Education and appropriate financial products and services are required to guide freelancers and part-time workers to save and invest for retirement.

Smaller Pension + Higher Cost = Lower Quality of Life in Retirement for Women 

​The threat of pension inequality is intensified by retirement being costlier for women:

  • Women live five to eight years longer than men.

  • Pay higher taxes (single taxpayer status) for more years than men.

  • Have longer periods of illness.

​​Longer lives are not a problem IF the government and employer have promised to pay a fixed income until death, and there is government provided or subsidized medical care.

 

Developments Aggravating the Problem

  • Growth in freelance worker-force without employer-sponsored pensions.

  • Pay differential for men & women in some professions has stopped narrowing.

  • The divorce rate for people over 50 continues to grow, leaving many without a pension. 

  • Shift from public to private responsibility for retirement funding.

What Steps Must be Taken? 

 

Automatic Enrollment is Not the Solution

Automatic enrollment helps only people in conventional full-time work save for retirement. Part-time, freelance and low-paid workers – who are disproportionally female, are left behind:

“There is a risk that automatic enrolment becomes a great way of helping men in conventional full-time work save for their later years, but leaves part-timers and the low-paid behind. Both groups are disproportionately female.”[viii]

A pension black spot exists for women who do not earn enough to be enrolled in a pension by their employer, typically because they work part-time."

Employer Match is Not the Solution

Employer match disproportionately favors men. Looking at more than 250,000 pension plans, Zurich, the insurer, found that on average, a man under the age of 35 received GBP 271 (USD $354) a year more in employer contributions towards retirement than a woman the same age.

This match gap can result in a woman being worse off by GBP 47,000 (USD $61,500) when she retires compared with a man.

Women, Employers & Governments Must Rise to the Challenge

Action Steps:

  • Educate people that Saving alone will not fund retirement.

  • Incentive people to invest early, frequently and significantly.

  • Eliminate any workforce pay gap.

  • Abolish mandatory early retirement for women.

  • Provide affordable child care, paid parental leave and flexible work hours.

  • Enable women to continue pension savings during maternity and elder-care leave.

  • Afford all workers, access to a self-funded retirement plan.

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NOTES & DEFINITIONS:

  • *Retirement funding systems differ from country to country and may include a government provision, employer-sponsored provision, and privately-funded provision.

  • A pension is a type of retirement saving and investment account which is funded and invested by your employer on your behalf.

  • A Defined-benefit Plan generally has a promised monthly income benefit in retirement. 

  • A Defined-Contribution Plan, most 401(K) Plans,  is also an employer-sponsored plan, but the risk of investment and income at retirement is on the individual employee. 

  • An independent retirement account (IRA, SIPP)  is not sponsored by an employer but established by an individual for their own benefit.

______________________________________________________

SOURCES:

[i] http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/files/documents/150618_men_women_pensions_en.pdf

[ii]http://www.oecd.org/gender/data/newoecddataandanalysisrevealingthewidegapinpensionbenefitsbetweenmenandwomen.htm

[iii] http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/files/documents/150618_men_women_pensions_en.pdf

[iv] The European Institute for Gender Equality, 2015

[v]https://www.scp.nl/english/Publications/Summaries_by_year/Summaries_2008/Part_time_working_in_the_Netherlands

[vi] https://www.weforum.org/press/2017/05/global-pension-timebomb-funding-gap-set-to-dwarf-world-gdp/

[vii] https://nltimes.nl/2017/07/11/80-pct-dutch-freelancers-dont-occupational-disability-insurance

[viii] https://www.ft.com/content/c9b74996-b582-11e7-aa26-bb002965bce

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