The survey of more than 1,000 participants in retirement plans MassMutual administers found that overall, 75.8% of participants are optimistic about the stock market, believing that performance will improve in the next 12 months, compared to only 7.6% who think it will decline. Women are just as optimistic as men relative to the market outlook.
However, according to a press release, women are significantly less confident in making their own investment decisions (32.5%) compared to men (47.8%). Likewise, more men enjoy managing their investments (61.5%) than do women (48.1%).
More women said they prefer to spend as little time as possible on investment decisions (39.3%) compared to men (28%). In addition, while overall 70.9% of participants enjoy learning about investments, compared to 8.2% who don’t, a higher percentage of men (75.4%) enjoy learning about investments than women (63.1%).
Elaine Sarsynski, executive vice president of MassMutual’s Retirement Services Division and chairman and CEO of MassMutual International LLC, said in the press release that being able to retire is the greatest concern among 401(k) participants (37.3%) – more than double the concern about healthcare costs (16.0%), job security (14.5%), and managing debt (12.2%). Almost nine times as many participants believe that they need to save more for retirement as don’t (72.9% vs. 8.2%); however, women are more concerned that they won’t have enough saved (70.3%) compared to men (63.2%).
In terms of approach to retirement planning in the current economy, overall 40.3% of participants reported becoming more conservative, 32.9% became more aggressive, and 26.8% have not changed their approach. Men who changed their approach were fairly evenly divided between those who became more conservative (39.0%) and those who became more aggressive (35.3%). Women were far more likely to take a more conservative approach (42.5%) than to be more aggressive (27.7%).
MassMutual said a review of account balances shows this to be true. Average account balances of female participants showed far less volatility than those of men, reflecting their more conservative investment selections.
Women More Likely to Seek Help from Advisers
MassMutual's survey of more than 1,000 participants in retirement plans it administers found participants prefer to receive their information from their retirement plan provider and financial adviser (67% combined) over other sources. Only 10.2% of surveyed participants currently work with a personal financial adviser; however, the percentage (30.0%) of participants who are more likely to seek help from an adviser as a result of the recession is more than double the percentage who are less likely (12.7%), with the remainder no more or less likely to seek help than before.
The survey found women are almost 25% more likely to already work with an adviser than men (11.9% vs. 9.6%) and are almost 20% more likely than men to seek help as a result of the recent economy (34.1% vs. 28.8%).
MassMutual said its participant behavior data supports the findings of its survey. MassMutual’s average participant balance was up 29.1% in 2009 versus 2008, and participants are displaying increasing confidence in equities. As of year-end 2009, participant assets in bonds and stable value funds declined slightly, while assets in equities and asset allocation investments as a percentage of total assets grew to 62.3%, a high for the year.
Investments in MassMutual’s asset allocation options increased from 18.6% at year-end 2008 to 21.6% at year-end 2009, a 16% increase – and the highest level of assets in asset allocation funds as a percentage of total retirement assets at MassMutual to date.