5 Things to Know About Women and Retirement

Close up photo of a woman's hands as she reviews retirement planning papers with her computer and calculator nearby

Saving, especially for retirement, should start early and continue throughout your lifetime. But when it comes to financial planning and saving, women often face more challenges than men — making it harder for them to adequately save for retirement.

It’s important for women to recognize these barriers so that they can make informed choices about their money, especially as they near retirement age. Here are five facts about women and retirement to help women and their families better prepare for this important milestone:

1. Women are more likely to work part time — and less likely to have employer-sponsored retirement plans.

In 2020, women who worked part time made up 30% of all female wage and salary workers. In comparison, only 19% of men in wage and salary jobs worked part time. (These numbers are elevated because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the gender difference existed prior to the pandemic – and remains today.) And we know part-time jobs are less likely to offer retirement plans.

2. Women take more time away from work to care for others.

Women are typically the ones who step into the role of caregiver. Mothers are more likely than fathers to reduce their work hours to care for a child or family member. Additionally, about 58% of long-term caregivers are female. More time away from work generally means less ability to save.

3. Too few women save for retirement.

More than half of women are not saving for retirement. If you are among them, know that saving in an employer’s retirement plan is the most effective way to save for your future. And often the employer offers a matching contribution – that's free money! A workplace plan is the easiest way to save, so take advantage when you can.

4. Women live longer.

On average, a 65-year-old woman can expect to live to age 86. That’s 21 years in retirement, and nearly 3 years longer than men. This makes it extra important for women to build a sufficient retirement nest egg for themselves.

5. Older women are more likely to live in poverty.

For all these reasons and more, women typically are retired for a longer period of time than men and with fewer assets. Unfortunately, women age 65 or older are about 43% more likely than men to live on an income below the poverty level. And about 65% of the elderly poor are women. Start small if you must, but start saving now!

To learn more about how women can prepare for retirement, register for our free upcoming webcast – “Helping Women Take the Mystery Out of Retirement Planning” – on Sept. 2 at 2p.m. ET. Speakers from the Social Security Administration, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Administration for Community Living will join the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration and its Women’s Bureau.

You can also check out our resources on planning for retirement and meeting your savings goals to get started today.

Editor’s note: The Employee Benefits Security Administration interprets and enforces ERISA, and works to ensure the security of the retirement, health, and other workplace-related benefits of America’s workers and their families. The Women’s Bureau develops policies to improve job opportunities and working conditions for women, and advocates for their equality and economic security.

Tiffany Boiman is the director of the Women’s Bureau’s Office of Policy and Programs. Follow the Women’s Bureau on Twitter at @WB_DOL. Ali Khawar is the acting assistant secretary for employee benefits security.