Bridge the retirement gender gapBlog added by Allen Greenberg on June 5, 2014
Allen Greenberg

Allen Greenberg

Denver, CO

Joined: May 29, 2013

My favorite job as a kid was at the place next door to my dad’s auto repair shop, an operation that consisted of a sprawling, busy warehouse on the first floor filled with row upon row of construction and other tools. On the second floor, you could find the offices filled with desks and phones and phone books. Lots of phone books.

My job was in sales, meaning I had to pick up one of those phone books, find the numbers to contractors wherever they might be, and start dialing.

They gave us a script, but I did my best learning by listening to the older guys. They knew what to say, and how to say it. I’ll always remember the one line that helped the floor manager close so many deals.

First, he’d grab the earpiece of his phone and then slam the mouthpiece against the side of his desk three times. “Did you hear that?” he’d yell into the phone. “That was opportunity knocking!”

It was coarse, but effective.

More recently, the Pension Rights Center, OneAmerica, Wells Fargo, Aon Hewitt and Allsup Medicare Advisor, among others, have all tried to underscore what might be one of the clearest opportunities for advisors: The help needed by women to sort through the question of planning for their retirements.

According to a Congressional analysis of Census data, women are almost twice as likely as men to live below the poverty line during retirement.

On average, women 65 years and older rely on a median income of around $16,000 a year – about $11,000 less than men of the same age, the data shows. And many elderly women are forced to rely entirely on what they get from Social Security.

Of course, both men and women are facing a retirement crisis, but it disproportionately affects women, according to the Pension Rights Center.

The reasons for this are many. Women still earn lower wages than men and are more likely to work part-time or take time off to care for their children, parents or disabled relatives, which can further lower their earnings. Women also make up the majority of low-wage workers, and low-wage jobs, like restaurant and retail, typically don’t offer retirement savings plans to their employees.

No wonder that OneAmerica, sharing the results of one of its surveys earlier this week, said that it found men are more confident than women (43 vs. 32 percent) about retirement.

Congress might take up Social Security reform sometime this year or next. Some of the fixes that lawmakers might take up could help women.

But let’s not wait on Washington to address this. Whether you’re a group or individual retirement advisor, opportunity is knocking.

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