Financial firms target women for retirement savings initiatives

By Gina Gallucci-White
BridgeTower Media Newswires

Retirement is a life event we all must prepare for, yet women face more barriers when it comes to planning for the golden years. Stepping out of the work force for a time to raise children, divorce, becoming a widow or being single and using money for living expenses are just a few of the obstacles that financial planners cited.

Women tend to live longer than men, so it is important they understand the importance of saving for retirement. "At some point, they might have to rely on their own financial means and they may not realize that now,' Judith Ward, certified financial planner and senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price, said. "We see a lot of women get divorced and don't remarry. We see the women who are widowed in retirement."

She encourages women to take control and do what is in their power. "The good thing is saving for retirement -- that is within your control," she said. "The amount that you are able to save -- that is totally in your control."

This week, T. Rowe Price launched a seven-part documentary-style video series called "Women on Retirement: Stories to Empower." The idea for the series came after the Baltimore-based investment management firm conducted surveys about a year ago, uncovering a sizable retirement savings gap between men and women.

When looking at 401-K investment, millennial women contributed less and had a median account balance of $10,600 compared to $22,200 for millennial men, according to the firm.

When asked how knowledgeable they felt about money, only 67 percent of women said they were compared with 78 percent of men. Investing knowledge showed an even larger gap with 35 percent of women saying they were knowledgeable while 62 percent of men said they were.

Noting the disparity, T. Rowe Price used the video series to highlight 23 women sharing their experiences, challenges and advice.

"We hope that (women) take away (the knowledge that) they are not alone," Ward said. "There are a lot of women who are struggling but are also overcoming those challenges to get started in saving for retirement. ... It has to be a priority even though, as women, we've got all these competing priorities."

Retirement 'restarter'

Interestingly, the women featured in T. Rowe Price's video series are firm employees and their friends and family in other words, even women who work at financial firms face retirement savings barriers based on career choices, life circumstances and other factors.

Jill Taylor, communications leader in the firm's internal communications group, is one who discussed her retirement plan story.

"My father was a big influence on me," Taylor said. "He said from day one when I graduated 'You need to put away the maximum you can every year' and he would check on me every year and make sure. I would complain 'But Dad I want to go on vacation' or 'I want to do' this. (Today) those things I wanted to use the money for, I can't even remember what they were but I can look at my account savings and see what a good job I was able to do in those first several years of being on my own."

Taylor saved early in her career which included jobs in the sales and insurance fields. After having three kids in a year and a half, she stayed home for ten years doing some part time work at T. Rowe as a consultant. Her husband also started his own company during that time frame which meant there was no company sponsored plan for retirement or health care. "It was always a challenge to decide which bucket we were going to put the money in every year," she said. "We didn't always fund it as much as we would have liked to."

Now back to full-time work for the past three years, she is again dedicating a portion of her paycheck to retirement. 'It's never too late to start or to restart," Taylor said. "I consider myself a restarter even though I never completely stopped but I think it is important to know that any age you can start building up your retirement savings fund."

Lauren Rebbel, a certified financial planner and partner at The Prosperity Consulting Group in Owings Mills said millennial women often have a unique perspective about saving for retirement. "While they feel it is important -- because their parents told them so -- they would rather put more emphasis on enjoying life now and living a present, fulfilled life rather than waiting to reap the benefits of their savings thirty-plus years from now," she said. "They are also dealing with staggering amounts of student debt and paying off student loans supersedes saving for retirement."

Both Rebbel and Ward said that some of their older clients have left the financial planning up to their husbands or significant others. This is not a strategy they advise.

"Attend meetings with your financial planner," Rebbel said. "Ask questions. Know your number and the goals you are tracking toward. Do not fear financial conversations. Embrace them. A woman's involvement will make her financially wiser, stronger and more successful."

Published: Wed, Nov 09, 2016

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