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Women across all age bands feel that it's more important to save for retirement than just about anything else, according to the Credit Union National Association's Women's Financial Survey. CUNA is a trade association serving 90 percent of America's 7,200 state and federally chartered credit unions, which are not-for-profit cooperatives.
Of the age bands surveyed, 84 percent of those between the ages of 54 and 63 were most interested in saving for retirement, which makes sense. The least interest expressed (54.3 percent) was by the youngest cohort (ages 20 to 33), which is not surprising.
This points out the need for financial literacy education, since the desire to save for retirement shown by the youngest women, while still significant, needs to be much higher. With long investment horizons, they can benefit most from the math behind compounding.
For the next two age bands, there were substantial jumps in interest in saving for retirement (67.7 percent for ages 34 to 43, and 78 percent for ages 44-53).
That's understandable. As people start approaching retirement, they begin to think about how to finance it.
What about making financial decisions?
Most (62 percent) managed their own finances. A quarter (25.8 percent) co-managed their family finances.
It was surprising to me to see that the youngest group surveyed (ages 20-33) relied on spouses more than I would have thought. Only 55.5 percent managed their own finances, and 31.7 percent co-managed them with their spouses. Of the next cohort (ages 34-43), 67.1 percent managed their own finances, and 21.1 percent co-managed with spouses.
Of the oldest band surveyed (ages 84-93), 70.2 percent managed their own financials, and only 17 percent co-managed with their spouses. By that time, many were widowed (48.9 percent). At this age, children and other family members take an active role, as 6.4 percent have them do the managing. Of all other age bands studied, children and family members get involved hardly at all or not at all.
Pension participation drops dramatically the younger the cohort, as expected. For example, only 11 percent of those between ages 20-33 have pensions, while around 50 percent of those who are over age 64 do.
Conversely, Roth account participations have the greatest representation with younger cohorts (19.5 percent for ages 20-33; 23 percent for those ages 34-43), and the least participation (6.4 percent) is found in the highest age brackets (ages 84-93).
For the bands in between, about 60 percent managed their own finances.
Only 9 percent said that they were "very knowledgeable" about finances. Most said they were either "somewhat knowledgeable" (45 percent) or "knowledgeable" (40 percent). Six percent said they are "not knowledgeable at all."
A large percentage had 401(k)s (45 percent) and IRAs (28.8 percent), and 36 percent had pensions. Only 18 percent did not have a retirement vehicle.
A surprisingly large percentage (46.6 percent) set a monthly or quarterly household budget.
"The fact that women are thinking about retirement planning is a good sign that the message is getting out there that time is one of the most important aspects of retirement savings, and the sooner they start the better," said CUNA Executive Vice President Paul Gentile.
"It's surprising that although most women manage their household finances, they lack confidence that they are doing it correctly," said Gentile. "Our findings indicated that women take all the appropriate measures to be confident in their financial literacy but lack the reassuring knowledge to have confidence in how they manage their finances."
The Women's Financial Survey polled 1,042 via the Internet from a population of women nationally, with an even distribution of respondents born in each decade from 1920 to 1980.
Of those surveyed, 50 percent were married, 20 percent single and never married, 11 percent widowed and 19 percent divorced. Forty-six percent were employed full time, 9.1 percent were employed part time, and 27 percent were retired.
Julie Jason, a personal money manager (Jackson, Grant of Stamford, Conn.) and award-winning author, welcomes your questions/comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What women need to know about money • C2