In June 2013, the U.S. Equal Pay Act celebrated its 50th anniversary. Since the women’s movement of the 1960’s, American women have gained ground in the workplace for compensation and benefits. Despite that, the U.S. Department of Labor states only 45% of working women participate in a retirement plan. Sources on women’s pay issues confirm that, in spite of Equal Pay and Pay Equity legislative actions, Canadian women earn about 80% of the earnings of their male counterparts. A July 2013 report by Benefits Canada states Canadian women are 39% less likely to take charge of their retirement planning, compared to 32% for men.
Reluctance to initiate and actively participate in retirement planning is exacerbated by other factors that are prevalent for women in the workplace. Women face challenges to retirement planning that include:
- Women are still more likely to have an intermittent career cycle by taking time for child rearing and home responsibilities and not working outside the home or working a part-time or more menial job. Dropping into and out of the workforce affects overall earnings, opportunities for advancement and career development, and the opportunity to participate in employer-sponsored retirement plans.
- Women tend to invest conservatively and often do not have investment plans if their spouse does have one. Women are also less likely to take an active role in administering a retirement plan with a spouse, many times taking a more passive role.
- Women generally outlive men. Although the figures vary and are affected by the age difference between spouses (women are often younger than their spouses), but, women more often reach old age alone because they are likely to be widowed for 10 to 20 years. Living longer presents a potential need for long-term care insurance, which many times is carried on the husband rather than on both spouses.
For these and many more reasons, women need to begin as early as possible and maintain participation in retirement investment plans. Even lower contribution amounts add value to the end result of retirement investments. Women need to take an active role in the administration of and responsibility for family assets.