Women 3 times more likely than men to report they can’t afford to save for retirement

While Middle American men and women share similar feelings of financial security, women are more likely to worry about their personal finances and with good reason: they are three times more likely to say they cannot afford to save for retirement.

A new study from MassMutual finds that four in 10 women (39%) and 35% of men with annual household incomes of between $35,000 and $150,000 report feeling “not very” or “not at all” financially secure. The 2017 MassMutual Middle America Men & Women Finances Study also found that one in two women (51%) say they worry at least once a week about money compared to 45% of men. Women are also more likely to bring those worries to work while men are twice as likely to say they never worry about money.

“MassMutual’s research indicates that many women in Middle America are falling behind when it comes to preparing for retirement and building financial security,” said Teresa Hassara, Leader of MassMutual’s Workplace Solutions. “The data indicates an imperative for financial education for Middle American workers, especially women who often face greater financial challenges. Many people realize the need for financial education and say they would appreciate their employers making more such resources available.”

He saves, she saves

Men and women differ in their approaches to saving money, especially when it comes to retirement. Both genders overwhelmingly agree they are not saving enough for retirement (74% women; 71% men) but men tend to be more confident when it comes to being financially secure when they eventually retire. Nearly half of Middle American women (47%) say they are “not very” or “not at all” confident about being financially secure in retirement compared to 39% of men, the study shows.

Women worry with good reason. Specifically, 44% of women in Middle America report they cannot afford to save for retirement compared to 14% of men, according to the study. One in four women says they don’t save because their employer either doesn’t match retirement plan contributions or doesn’t offer a compelling match, and 21% of men say the same.

Only two in 10 women report having $10,000 or more in savings for financial emergencies compared to three in 10 men. A whopping 73% of women who are not saving for anything other than retirement say all of their income goes towards monthly expenses and bills; 62% of men say the same. Women are also less likely than men to use any extra money to pay off debt (38% to 47%, respectively).

When they do save, men and women typically take different approaches. Women are more likely than men to save “whatever is left after expenses” (47% women; 34% men) while men are more likely to save a set amount each month (33% women; 44% men).

“Men are more likely to pay themselves first, an effective habit for saving money,” Hassara said. “While educating women about effective savings strategies can help, women often face bigger challenges because they are typically paid less than men for the same work.”

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) reported that women typically are paid 80% of what their male colleagues earn for the same job.

He worries, she worries

Women tend to worry more than men about several different aspects of life, especially politics, money and family.

From day to day, how worried are you about each of the following? Men

Very or somewhat worried


Very or somewhat worried

Politics/direction of the country 59% 74%
Your household’s financial situation 51% 57%
Health and well-being of parents or in-laws 50% 52%
Personal health 43% 38%
Health and well-being of children 30% 40%
Marriage/love life 22% 21%
Housing situation 25% 27%

Those who worry about money at least once a week report negative implications for their health and well being, especially women. Women are more likely to blame financial concerns for stress (59% women; 54% men), hurting their social life (43% women; 37% men), affecting the frequency or quality of their family’s medical or dental care (27% women; 17% men) and negatively impacting their marriage or romantic relationship (30% women; 25% men).

How are you helping your female clients save for retirement and worry less about the future?


Emily Holbrook is a former Editor in Chief of National Underwriter Life & Health and Retirement Advisor magazine. She has covered the financial, risk management and insurance industries for more than a decade, with her work appearing in Risk Management, National Law Review and Huffington Post. Emily graduated with dual degrees in Finance and English and worked in the financial industry as a fixed income trading administrator and analyst before becoming a full-time writer and editor. Emily now owns her own writing, editing and content strategy company, Red Label Writing. She can be reached at emily@redlabelwriting.com or on LinkedIn.



  1. 25% of women say they do not save because there employer does not offer a compelling match? That is crazy! I am self employed and I contribute to my own retirement every month. While it may not be as much if I had an employer contributing, at least it is something.

  2. My financial situation use to bother me a lot. Enough that it was making me physically sick. But I changed my habits and started saving for emergencies and now I feel so much better.

  3. How I help my female clients is by education. Even if it is $25 set aside for retirement each month, at least it is something. That $25 can turn into $25,000 if the money in ten years if invested correctly.

  4. I see it time and time again with my female clients, they know they need to do something, but they are not sure what to do. I always tell them that the first step they took to come here was the hardest step.

  5. Even though my employer is very old school (suites and ties) and ran by mostly men in the same family, the bulk of the workers are African American women. I believe that they have embraced females in the work force from offering free financial education to free mammograms. My employer has embraced the role of the woman in the work force which is probably why many women stay with my employer for 30 years.

    • I think I am the exception to the rule. I work with all women and most of them bring their problems to work. However, I like to make it a point to not bring my problems to work. I like to keep my work life and my personal life separate.

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