Think Smart: Why 80 Percent of Women Fail Retirement Income Literacy Quiz

Only 18% of retirement-age women can pass a basic quiz on how to make a nest egg last in retirement. Nearly twice as many retirement-age men are able to pass, and although those numbers are still grim, this underscores the trouble women face in their own retirement knowledge. Even more worrisome is that despite low retirement literacy, the majority of women (55%) are still extremely confident that they and their spouses would have enough money to retire comfortably.

These findings are part of the RICP® Retirement Income Literacy Survey from The American College of Financial Services – the most comprehensive survey exploring the drawdown phase of Americans’ financial lifetimes, when people are no longer receiving a paycheck from their jobs but must still fund their lifestyles during a potentially lengthy retirement.

Retirement Income Literacy: Women vs Men (selection)

Knowledge Categories

% Correct

Women

% Correct

Men

Annuity products in retirement

16%

24%

Company retirement plans

30%

40%

Investment considerations in retirement planning

31%

49%

Strategies for sustaining income throughout retirement

34%

48%

Paying for long-term care expenses

38%

35%

Medicare insurance planning

76%

76%

Passed Quiz

18%

35%

Women demonstrated lower literacy rates in 10 out of 12 knowledge categories. There was a discrepancy in performance between men and women across the areas of annuity products in retirement (16% vs 24%), company retirement plans (30% vs 40%) and investment considerations in retirement planning (21% vs 49%). However, women performed just as well as men (76%) on the topic of Medicare insurance planning and actually exceed on the topic of paying for long-term care expenses (38% vs 35%), which is important as women live longer on average.

Retirement Income Literacy: Don’t Know, Don’t Care
Women are aware that they have poor retirement literacy – yet this does not impact their confidence in retirement. Only a third (33%) of women stated they were extremely knowledgeable about retirement income planning, compared to 44% of men. However the majority of women (55%) reported they were extremely confident they would have enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement.

  • Only 24% of extremely confident women could pass the quiz while roughly 42% of the extremely confident men could pass the quiz.
  • In all 12 knowledge categories – including strategies for sustaining income, life expectancy, and life insurance – women reported lower self-perceived retirement income planning knowledge than men.

“Women face considerable challenges when it comes to preparing for retirement, and lacking financial literacy certainly does not help the cause,” said Jocelyn Wright, State Farm® Chair in Women and Financial Services and Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies at The American College of Financial Services. “This is a problem, especially when a female at age 65 can expect to live another 20 years on average, two years longer than the average man. With this in mind, women cannot depend on their spouse to hold the keys to their retirement. It is time to get smart on how to navigate this complex and extremely important stage of life.”

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