Financial Stress Often Tied to Family Structure

According to an MFS survey, just four in 10 women are confident in their ability to address financial concerns and just one-third of women surveyed are confident they'll be able to save enough for retirement.

The 2017 MFS Heritage Planning Survey reflects on the “financial planning dilemma” that many women—and men as well—face when setting a work-life balance.

Confronting the issue frankly, the survey observes that, while more and more women are taking an equal or leading role in earning and managing household wealth, it is still more likely for women to leave work to care for their families—particularly young children.

Add this to the fact that women need to save more for retirement than men because they live longer, and it results in a really challenging picture for a lot of people. According to the MFS survey, just four in 10 women are confident in their ability to address financial concerns and just one-third of women surveyed are confident they’ll be able to save enough for retirement.

“Women with children are much more likely than men to see job disruptions and a loss in retirement savings,” researchers note. “According to recent Bureau of Labor statistics, 70.5% of women with children under the age of 18 participate in the workforce, compared to 92.8% of men with children under 18.”

The contrast is even starker for women with young children, as just 64.7% of moms with kids under the age of six participate in the workforce, observes Jenine Garrelick, senior managing director of internal sales with MFS.

“Due to the effects of compounding, saving money for retirement during the early years in your career is crucial,” she explains. “For women who’ve put their careers on hold, there are investment vehicles, such as spousal IRAs, that can help them avoid putting their retirement security in jeopardy. Our research shows that most women don’t know about the options available to them.”

NEXT: Improving the continuity of savings 

“Part of the solution is education,” MFS suggests. In the survey responses, just one in five women say they are extremely knowledgeable about investing and half of those surveyed say they are overwhelmed by their investment choices. When it comes to specific investment options, only four in 10 women surveyed said they are extremely knowledgeable about college savings accounts, IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans.

“It's not surprising then, that over 70% of women surveyed said they would like to be more knowledgeable about investing, and 57% of those with financial advisers said they would turn to those advisers in the next few years for more support,” says Susan Kay, director of business development with MFS. “Advisers must be able to speak to women's specific concerns to help them build a sound financial future.”

According to MFS, eight in 10 women working with financial advisers believe it's “extremely important to turn to their adviser for retirement planning,” but they are also “worried about a host of other issues that they might face in retirement.”

Survey results further show two-thirds of women are extremely or very concerned about rising health care costs and half of those surveyed are concerned about a reduction in Social Security benefits.

“These concerns were most pronounced among Boomers, who are either on the cusp of or just entering retirement,” MFS finds. “The cost of health care and a possible reduction in Social Security benefits were significant concerns for 71% and 53% of Boomers, respectively. In fact, over half of women surveyed are concerned that they won't be able to retire when they want to. This belief is especially pronounced among younger women. Sixty-three percent of Millennial women and 68% of Gen X women are concerned about saving enough for retirement.”

“There is no longer a 'traditional role' for women. Whether its Boomers, Gen X or Millennials, many women are concerned that they're going to outlive their retirement savings," Garrelick concludes. “Financial advisers need to spend more time really getting to know their female clients and prospects, because each one of them is an individual with concerns very unique to her own situation.”