Women Need Three-legged Stool in Retirement More So Than Men

May 7, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Women remain at a higher risk for retirement insecurity as compared to men, according to a new research brief issued today by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS).

The Issue Brief contends that risk can be reduced by ensuring women have the combination of a traditional pension, supplemental 401(k)-type individual savings, and Social Security – the three-legged stool.

“Shattering the Retirement Glass Ceiling: Women Need a Three-Legged Stool,” points out that women need to accumulate more retirement assets than men because they often to live longer, but acquiring enough assets is more difficult because women still have lower wages and less access to retirement plans during their working years as compared to men.

Specifically, the research finds that that a woman with a salary of $50,000 must save $1,000 more per year than her male counterpart to achieve equitable retirement income because of her longer life expectancy. Yet according to a 2007 study, full-time female workers made just 76.2% of their male counterparts’ wages – meaning less money for savings, NIRS said in a press release.

The Issue Brief also suggests that defined benefit (DB) pension plans provide benefits and protections that are especially important for women. NIRS’ study indicates that women are more likely to live above the poverty line in retirement when they have income from pensions, but just 23.3% of women have their own pension as compared to 42% of men.

Among women dependent on their husband’s retirement plan, those whose husbands have a DB plan may be better off than women whose husbands have only a DC plan, because DB plans have special protections for spouses, NIRS said.

The report noted that supplemental defined contribution (DC) savings plans like 401(k) accounts offer portability of assets – important for women as they may move in and out of the workforce more so than men.

The Issue Brief is here .