Benefits and Compensation

Gender Plays Vital Role in How Workers Are Saving for Retirement, Finds Willis Towers Watson

Financial wellness continues to be one of the top priorities for workers of all ages. However, a new survey shows that gender plays an important part in how workers are saving for retirement and securing their financial freedom.retirement

The 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey—conducted by global advisory, broking, and solutions company Willis Towers Watson—has revealed that while importance of retirement security has increased sharply over the past few years, workers’ retirement confidence has turned downward, which could prompt employers to boost their offering of financial well-being programs.

“Saving for retirement is a significant challenge for the vast majority of working Americans,” said Shane Bartling, senior consultant, Willis Towers Watson—in a press release. “Varying financial needs make it difficult for many men and women to build a retirement nest egg. While our survey finds that women place a lower priority on saving for retirement than men do, we believe it’s a question of, ‘Am I able to save for retirement?’ rather than, ‘Is it important to save for retirement?’”

According to the survey, 60% of working men ranked saving for retirement as their top financial priority. In contrast, 44% of women surveyed ranked saving for retirement as their top priority. In fact, saving for retirement was the fifth-highest priority for most women, who ranked meeting daily living costs (64%) and paying off debt (57%) as their top financial priorities.

To note, married women without any children under age of 18 ranked saving for retirement as their number one financial priority. The survey noted that most employees do not prioritize their own finances toward saving for retirement until their 40s or 50s, when other financial needs have been met.

The survey also found retirement security is becoming a much more important issue for all respondents, jumping from 52% in 2013 to more than three-quarters (78%) in 2018. And while retirement security has become a heightened issue for Baby Boomers (87%), it remains a key issue for even Millennial employees (71%).

At the same time, workers’ retirement confidence has declined following several years of steady improvement. More than half of respondents (57%) feel confident they have enough financial resources to live comfortably 15 years into retirement, but that is down from 69% in 2015.

Retirement confidence had been rising steadily since 2009 when 61% were confident. In addition, less than two in five women (39%) are now confident they’ll have enough resources to last 25 years into retirement compared with 54% of men.

More Workers Expecting to Work into Their 70s

More than one in three (37%) workers surveyed expect to work past age 70, an increase from 30% two years ago. Only one in four workers (26%) says he or she will be able to retiree before age 65, down from 29% in 2015.

Struggling employees—identified in the survey as those worried about their short- and long-term finances—are feeling the greatest pressure to retire later. Two-thirds of struggling employees who are age 50 or older today don’t expect to be able to retire before age 70. About 30% of the employees surveyed were identified as “struggling.”

“Financial pressures are driving many employees to retire later,” said Pat Rotello, senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson. “Employees with money worries are more likely to keep working past normal retirement age to help sustain their income. Our research shows employees who work longer are typically less healthy, more stressed and less engaged at work. Given these developments, we believe employers will want to evaluate their retirement plans and financial well-being initiatives. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise us to see more employers develop and implement financial well-being programs to help their employees achieve their retirement and financial goals.”

Among other findings from the Global Benefits Attitudes Survey:

  • Three in four workers (74%) believe their generation is likely to be much worse off in retirement than their parents’ generation.
  • About two-thirds believe Social Security (68%) will be much less when they retire than it is now and government medical benefits (66%) will be worse.
  • Half of workers (50%) plan to retire from their main job but will keep working for some time before fully retiring.

About the Survey

The 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes Survey examines attitudes toward the health and retirement benefits of over 30,000 private sector employees in 22 countries. A total of 4,983 U.S. workers participated in the survey, which was conducted in July and August 2017. For more information on this survey, click here.