A new Wells Fargo retirement study focusing on affluent Americans reveals that women are much less confident than men when it comes to their retirement savings.

The results, when compared by gender, showed that the group least confident about their retirement is single women, while married men ranked the highest in confidence.

Part of that confidence may reflect the actual wealth of the genders. The women surveyed have saved a median of $250,000 toward their retirement versus a median of $400,000 saved by men. But women are also estimating they need less to retire, with a median of $500,000 versus the $750,000 median result for men.

Wells Fargo’s survey results are based on telephone interviews conducted with 801 U.S. residents between ages 25 and 75 from Aug. 11 to Sept. 23. The group was evenly divided between investors with between $100,000 to $250,000 in assets and those with more than $250,000.

Of the women surveyed, 31% said they are not confident that they will be able to afford the lifestyle they prefer in retirement versus 18% of the men surveyed. At the same time, 18% of the affluent women surveyed said they would have to work until age 80 versus 9% of men.

“The bottom line is it does not add up,” Wells Fargo Director of Retail Retirement Karen Wimbish said of the gender disparity during a presentation of the survey results in New York on Wednesday. “If you sat down and you took all of those components together, you would have to say, ‘You’re probably going to be working until you’re 80 if this is how you’re approaching retirement.’”

Forty-two percent of women surveyed with between $100,000 to $250,000 in investable assets said they have a written plan for retirement. By comparison, 59% of the women surveyed with more than $250,000 in assets said they have a written plan.

Confidence toward retirement dipped lower when it came to single women, according to the survey. In that group, 44% said they are not confident that they will have enough savings for their retirement, while 27% of married women said they are not confident and 17% of married men.

The survey results also highlighted more gender disparities when it comes to wealth and attitudes towards retirement. Men were more likely to have a pension than women, or 57% versus 47%. At the same time, 80% of women said they were more likely to target a certain amount of savings for their retirement rather than an age compared to 67% of men.

The survey’s overall results showed that almost a quarter of the survey respondents, or 23%, said they are not confident that they will be able to save enough for retirement. Those results come as investors need to undergo an attitude shift toward their savings, according to Wimbish.

“We are not coming to grips with the fact that we’re going to have to use our savings and we’re going to have to decumulate,” Wimbish said. “It’s shifted from a corporate government retirement environment to a very personal retirement environment, and I don’t think people have come to grips with what that means for them.”

Wells Fargo is taking the results from surveys like these and applying it to how they handle investors, Wimbish said. She said personally blogs for Wells Fargo’s website Beyond Today that aims to educate female investors. The firm has also started to roll out an early version of an income illustrator to help financial advisors work with clients to track their retirement investment progress.

Lorie Konish writes for On Wall Street.


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