Retirement for Women is Just Different. Here's What to Do.

By Sallie Krawcheck

Retirement … sitting by the pool, gardening, puttering around. Rest, relaxation, retreat. 

For men, retirement tends to represent “a final chapter.” 

For women, well, our image of retirement is different. It’s freedom. It’s a new chapter. It can be traveling, hiking, pickleballing, or Golden Girling with your friends.

And after all of the caregiving and career-building and living-and-loving that we do, we damn well deserve the Monica-Vitti-on-a-Vespa of it all in retirement.  

Now, let’s layer on a few cold, hard facts: 

As of today, and given our myriad of other responsibilities, women don’t prioritize planning for retirement as soon as men do. For example, in our Ellevest Financial Wellness Survey, men said saving for retirement was their #1 financial goal; for women, retirement was #4. #1 was taking care of their family. 

Perhaps one culprit for some of us is that we typically lack the education on how to approach retirement savings; a third of women report that they never learned about retirement savings from any sources — including parents, a first job, or in school. (Missing out on all of that delicious compounding, due to starting later.)

Layer in that we live longer; we earn less over our careers; we tend to serve as primary caregivers more often. Our earning power plateaus earlier. (Hello, motherhood penalty / fatherhood bonus.) These drawbacks come with real costs: it means that we have less margin for error.

Perhaps it should be no wonder, then, given these facts, that the median 401(k) account for women is 65% lower than men’s. And there’s further pressure: With the resurgence of inflation over the past couple of years, nearly two-thirds of women say that will cause them to delay their retirement.

The answer? Get some help. Pair up with a financial planner or financial advisor, and get yourself a game plan

And, yes, you would expect that advice from me. But get this: 97% of women in the workforce with a financial advisor report that this makes them more confident in their ability to make good financial decisions, even during a crisis. (Please read that again. 97%. When do you get 97% of anyone to agree on anything??)

So on the one hand, we women have less margin for error than men on retirement planning, and we are also less likely to have a financial plan or work with a financial advisor. In fact, 21% of women we surveyed report never having invested time into their financial futures at all. 

On the other hand, that 97% confidence stat from above points to the solution for this. 

And if we had a third hand, we’d be double-clicking on this link to sign up for a personalized retirement plan or a full financial plan — which we’ve built specifically for women. 

Moment of truth: your retirement isn’t going to plan itself. And, if you don’t control your own money, you don’t control your own life.  

So, in sum … 

Act one: Build a financial plan

Act two: Feel the immediate relief that comes along with having a financial plan in place.

Act three: As music plays, you wrap a diaphanous Monica-Vitti-could-have-worn-it scarf around your neck and your arms around the waist of a smoking hot companion before you Vespa away.

Can you see it?

Sallie Krawcheck Signature


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Sallie Krawcheck

Sallie Krawcheck is the Founder & CEO of Ellevest.