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Retirement savings

October 16, 2013

Seven ways men and women disagree about retirement

Mostly, we see eye to eye. But on seven key questions, many Canadian men and women have different perspectives about what happens after work.

I was lucky enough to be in Whistler, B.C. last week, speaking at a conference for employee benefit and pension plan sponsors. During my presentation on the Sun Life Canadian Unretirement Index, a delegate asked me if there were differences between the responses we got from men and women. I answered that for the most part, we were surprised by how little the two genders differed. But that’s not to say that men and women are fully in sync.

Here are seven ways men and women see retirement differently.

1. Men are more likely to be satisfied with their retirement savings

We asked respondents how satisfied they are, and 33.1% said either “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied.” Not a huge number, but not as bad as it might be given the capital market volatility we’ve seen in recent years. Men appear in better shape however. The percentage who said “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” is 37.5%. Among women, the total was 29.1%. Almost half of women (46.9%) are “very dissatisfied” or “somewhat dissatisfied” with their savings. By comparison, just 36.1% of men said the same.

2. More than a third of women expect to be working part-time at 66

While men and women expect to work past 65 in roughly equal numbers, women are more likely to be planning on part-time work while men are more likely to keep working full-time. We asked respondents what they thought they’d be doing at 66; 34.4% of women said “working part-time” (versus 29.1% of men) and 30.7% of men said “working full-time” (versus 21.2% of women).

3. Men are much more likely to work past 65 by choice

Among those who expect to be working at 66, 42.3% of men said they’ll do so “because they want to” (versus 31.2% of women). Almost seven in 10 women expect to be working at 66 “because they need to.”

4. More men pay themselves first

It’s one of the principles of personal finance — put a sum of money aside in savings each month before paying your living expenses and making discretionary purchases.  About three in 10 (29.4%) men said they do it every month, while 23.1% of women said the same. One third of men and women do it sometimes. And 41% of women said they never do it (versus 34.2% of men).

5. Saving for retirement is a top priority among many more men

We asked respondents to name their top financial priority. Among men, 27.4% said it was “saving for retirement.” Just 19.2% of women said the same. In both cases, the highest percentage said their No. 1 priority is to “pay down personal loan(s) or other debt(s).”

6. Men are more likely to be confident about their understanding of financial matters

Well over half (56.2%) of men answered yes to our question: “Do you feel you have the financial knowledge to be able to make a plan for your retirement?” Among women, 47.7% said yes.

7. Yet men are less likely to worry about dying in debt

One of the findings that surprised us the most was that 27.2% of Canadians said “no, it does not matter if I die in debt.” The gender split adds to our understanding: 34.8% of men aren’t worried about debt in the afterlife, while just 20.1% of women said the same.

That last item aside, it’s hard to look at these numbers and not feel it supports an argument that too many Canadian women are at a disadvantage economically (relative to men at least). Our study even found that men are more likely to have employer-sponsored benefit and retirement savings plans.  We’ll be back in-field next month to learn more.

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