“Perfect storm” factors cloud retirement optimism for single and divorced women.

3 minute read

When it comes to preparing for retirement, many single and divorced women are swept up in a “perfect storm” of contributing factors that get in the way of planning and saving, according to a new report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) based on its annual 2022 Retirement Confidence Survey.

“Unmarried women workers and retirees have lower retirement confidence than their married counterparts and are more likely to have lower incomes and assets,” according to the EBRI report. “Unmarried retirees are also more likely to say that their expenses were higher than they expected and are more likely to have retired earlier than planned.”

Curious about which factors create less confidence among single and divorced women and what employers and financial sector companies can do to improve retirement confidence?

Read on for more EBRI report findings.

Unmarried women more likely to have lower financial assets

Divorced women (58 percent) and those who never married (56 percent) are more likely than married women (27 percent) to have less than $25,000 in assets, according to the ERBI report.

Factors contributing to lower financial assets may include unmarried women being less likely to calculate their retirement needs or hire a professional financial advisor, according to the report. As a result, many unmarried women face financial challenges in retirement.

“They are more likely to have low levels of savings, their expenses are higher than they expected when first retiring and they are more likely to have retired earlier than planned,” says the report.

Find out: 6 Shocking Facts about Women and Retirement

Married women more confident about a comfortable retirement

“Married women workers are more likely to say that they are confident they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout their retirement years than both divorced and single, never-married women workers,” says the report. “Among retirees, married women are also more likely to be confident that they will have enough money in retirement than divorced or widowed women.”

Find out: 7 Ways the Gender Pay Gap Affects Women in Retirement

Debt more likely to affect single women’s ability to save for retirement

Single, never-married women workers (40 percent) surveyed say they are more likely to agree that debt is negatively impacting their ability to contribute to their employer retirement savings plan than both married and divorced women workers (50 percent), according to the EBRI report.

Find out: 7 Pros and Cons of Investing in a 401(k) Retirement Plan at Work

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Retirement savings not a top priority for women who never married

When it comes to everyday finances and spending, single, never-married women say they’re more likely to prioritize buying a home or starting a business as a long-term financial planning strategy over saving for retirement, according to the EBRI report. Married and divorced women workers were most likely to make retirement savings one of their top three long-term financial priorities.

Find out: 6 Reasons to Delay Retirement

Many are unsure where to seek financial planning advice

One-third of women surveyed either “strongly or somewhat agree” with the statement that they don’t know where to go to receive good financial or retirement planning advice. “This is substantially higher for single, never married women, as 45 percent report that they do not know where to go for financial advice,” says the EBRI report.

How employers and the financial sector can help

Women in differing situations can benefit greatly from employer-targeted messages about retirement planning, messages and information about how to have a successful retirement, according to the EBRI report.

Survey results on the most important improvements to employer retirement plans desired by women workers include:

Single, never married

  • Better explanations about whether they’re on track for retirement savings: 31 percent
  • Better explanations about how much retirement income savings will produce: 26 percent
  • More online educational tools: 24 percent
  • Investment options providing guaranteed lifetime income after retirement: 21 percent

Married

  • Better explanations about being on track with retirement savings: 32 percent
  • More investment options designed for post-retirement: 30 percent
  • Investment options for guaranteed lifetime income in retirement: 28 percent
  • Better explanations for how much income retirement savings will produce in retirement: 27 percent

Divorced

  • None of the above: 35 percent
  • Investment options for guaranteed lifetime income in retirement: 31 percent
  • Better explanations about whether they’re on track for retirement savings: 29 percent
  • More one-on-one, personalized education about saving for retirement: 26 percent

Since many unmarried women don’t know where to go for good financial advice, financial sector companies should step up, too, according to the report.

EBRI recommends that financial sector companies develop more and better relationships with women by offering a diverse staff of single, never-married women who may be more relatable to single women looking for advisors similar to themselves.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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