Family Structure Impacts Retirement Readiness

February 20, 2008 ( - It's challenging enough for most people to save for retirement, but a new study suggests it can be even tougher for middle-aged Americans from blended families and single women.

A MetLife Mature Market Institute news release about its Family Matters study said 40 to 65-year-olds including those with children from previous relationships are more unlikely that their counterparts to have 401(k) plan accounts, pensions plans, or annuities.

According to the announcement, a person’s family structure largely influences how people plan for retirement. The study focuses on three such groups:

  • Traditional Families – two parents with children from their current relationship,
  • Blended Families – two parents with at least one child from a previous relationship, and
  • Single Women – widowed, divorced, or never-married, with or without children.

“There has been a great deal of attention paid to the role gender plays in retirement planning, but family structure is also critical and often overlooked,” asserts Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, in the news release. “We should not be ignoring how former spouses, stepchildren and having no children influence savings and income for retirement as well as estate planning.”

Among the survey’s major findings:

  • Nearly seven out of ten (66%) Traditional Families feel at least somewhat prepared for retirement, compared to 56% of Blended Families and only 40% of Single Women.
  • A majority of Traditional Families (55%) have a clear idea of what they hope to experience when they retire, compared to only 38% of Single Women and 48% of Blended Families.
  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) of Single Women and Blended Families (61%) say it’s significantly more difficult for them to save for retirement.
  • 29% of Blended Families and 21% of Single Women consistently contribute to their retirement accounts, compared to 41% of Traditional Families.
  • Single Women and Blended Families are more likely than their peers to say they know they should be saving more, but don’t know where to start – or that other expenses get in the way.
  • Fewer than half (42%) of Single Women own 401(k)’s, compared with 58% of Blended Families and 70% of Traditional Families.
  • Forty-four percent of Traditional Families have pension plans and 17% have annuities, while Blended Families have 41% and 15%, respectively; Single Woman have 26% and 11%, respectively.
  • Single Women say they lack the safety net of a second income that their married peers have. They are more worried (38% vs. 27% of Blended Families and 23% of Traditional Families) that they will not have a set level of monthly income to last through their retirement.
  • While roughly half (55%) of the entire group reported full-time employment, Single Women make up the greatest share of those working part-time (26%) with the rest split evenly between Blended Families (12%) and Traditional Families (12%).
  • Two-thirds (65%) of Single Women say they do not have a good idea of how much annual income they will need to fund the their retirement, compared with roughly half of their Traditional and Blended Family counterparts (48% and 54%, respectively).
  • 25% of Single Women do not own retirement savings/investment vehicles, almost twice that of Blended Families (13%) and three times that of Traditional Families (8%).
  • Health care is a critical issue for all in the survey group. Roughly two-thirds (63%) of Traditional Families do not expect to have enough money to cover health care costs in retirement, as is the case with 69% of Single Women and 66% of Blended Families.
The MetLife Mature Market Institute Family Matters study was conducted during the fourth quarter of 2007 and was fielded by RTi Research. The online study polled 1,584 Americans, age 40 to 65, including a mix of men and women drawn from a diverse pool of ethnic backgrounds.