Women are open to taking advice from financial advisors when it comes to planning for retirement, based on findings from the Retirement Survey study that Wells Fargo & Co. published on Thursday.

That is a good thing, because the sixth annual study found that in many ways, women appear to be markedly undereducated about what it takes to retire comfortably.

For instance, women participants said they had saved $20,000 for retirement on a median basis, compared with men, who put away the $25,000. They also reported that they were aiming to save $200,000. Men predicted $400,000. As for how much they would withdraw a year to live on during retirement, women reported between 11% and 30%, according to the study.

“It is highly unrealistic,” Karen Wimbish, head of retail retirement for Wells Fargo said in an interview on Thursday, adding that about 32% of women in their 40s and 50s did not know how much they should withdraw during retirement.

Wells Fargo partnered with Harris Interactive for the study, which completed 1,756 telephone interviews of middle class Americans from their 20s through their 60s. Done from early September to early October, the study contained findings by gender, and among women it drilled down to respondents grouped by decade. Regardless of the age group, the bank found that women felt less confident than men in their retirement outlook. 

When asked what they would do with $5,000 to put away for retirement, 40% of women said they would purchase bank CDs, instead of investing the money. That compared with 30% of men. Overall, just 27% of women said they have confidence in the stock market as a place for investment gains for their savings, compared with 40% of men.

How should advisors deal with these realities? One place to start is with married women. Wells Fargo found that among married women, 83% say they are the joint financial decision maker. If one of these women comes into an advisor’s office, especially with a husband, that professional should probably make sure to include the woman in the discussions, according to Wimbish, alluding to studies that show widows often leave their husband’s financial advisor, because the woman did not have a strong enough relationship with the professional while she was married.

“The good news is that they want help and are asking,” Wimbish said. “One of the things we think is important is reaching out to women in a way where they are educating themselves financially.” 

The bank launched a new retirement Web site, Beyond Today, to help women get started. It features tools and checklists to help women get organized, plus areas under “Ages and Stages,” with information centered around common concerns. Also, the Web site features a weekly blog by Jean Chatzky, a popular personal finance writer.

Wimbish explained that each week’s post would feature one action that women can take to prepare for retirement. That way, according to Wimbish, she will break retirement planning into concrete, manageable steps.

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