Most baby boomers believe they'll have enough money for a happy retirement. But pressed on the issue, their confidence does not run very deep.
A new study by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that 62 percent of boomers in the workforce said they were "confident" they will be able to retire and maintain a "comfortable lifestyle." But when asked if they were "very confident," only 13 percent said yes. And that lack of feeling very confident is higher among boomer women.
"This is a trend that we've seen over the years," says Catherine Collinson, president of Transamerica Institute, a nonprofit foundation affiliated with financial-services giant Transamerica Life Insurance Co. "Fewer women are very confident about their abilities to retire comfortably."
While the wage gap between men and women has been closing slowly during the 15 years that Transamerica has been doing these annual retirement studies, women, on average, still earn less than men. Women, early in their careers, are more likely than men to work part time, which allows them to also care for young children and later, in their peak earning years, drop out of the workforce at least temporarily to be caregivers for their aging parents. But Collinson urges women to understand the implications these obligations will have on their long-term financial security. "Lower lifetime earnings means less ability to save, and then compounded over time, there's less for lifetime savings," she says. "Before giving up your job or shifting to part time, make it a family conversation and share some of the responsibilities."
Those working part time may find another obstacle to a healthy nest egg. Employees who work less than 19 hours a week can be excluded from participation in company-sponsored retirement accounts.
Even when offered an employer-sponsored 401(k), women do not put as much as men into their accounts, and not only on a dollar-for-dollar basis. "Among women who are participating in a 401(k) or similar plan, the median contribution rate is only 7 percent compared to 10 percent among men," Collinson says.
For boomers who have fallen behind on their retirement savings, Collinson notes that the vast majority of 401(k) plans offer "catch-up contributions," where those 50 and older can increase their tax-deferred contributions to the retirement plan. Each plan is different, so check with your company's benefits department for details.
"It is never too soon or too late to be part of saving and planning," Collinson says.