Survey reveals gender gap in retirement readiness and confidence among employer-sponsored retirement plan participants

In a year when more Americans are reaching 65 than ever before, lingering economic concerns are casting a shadow over many workers’ retirement prospects. Research from the Nationwide Retirement Institute® (NRI) reveals a gender disparity in retirement confidence and readiness among current U.S. workplace savers as women report more challenges than their male colleagues.

A woman looking at a laptop while talking on a mobile phone
Women worry about outliving their retirement income infograp

NRI's In-Plan Protected Retirement survey of 1,200 employer-sponsored retirement plan participants revealed one in four women (23%) feel they’re “on the wrong track” for retirement, versus 15% of men, and 41% hold a negative or neutral outlook on their retirement planning compared to just 29% of men. This gender disparity is further demonstrated by the fact that women are less likely than men to have reached key savings milestones, such as saving enough for an emergency fund or adjusting their retirement investment allocations.

Today’s macroeconomic landscape may be throwing women retirement savers off course. The report found that women are more likely to be concerned about a recession or economic downturn and the impacts of rising costs or market volatility on their retirement savings. As a result, more than half of women are concerned about outliving their income in retirement (52%). However, only 13% have diversified their investment portfolio and only 15% looked for other investment options that offer protection during economic uncertainty.

"Women are actively participating in their employer-sponsored retirement plans alongside their male counterparts, but they’re also facing a variety of challenges that can make navigating their retirement journey more complex," said Cathy Marasco, leader of Protected Retirement for Nationwide Retirement Solutions. "Women are likely to live longer in retirement, so it’s understandable that fear of outliving their income would be a source of anxiety. The good news is there are new solutions available for employers to help plan participants address concerns about income in retirement."

Outliving savings is a top concern, but protected retirement solutions can help

In addition to navigating today’s macroeconomic landscape, another top challenge for 60% of women savers is determining how long they will need their retirement savings to last. Only 11% have created a plan to convert their savings into income in retirement. They also have other common concerns about their money, including the cost of health care (69%), Social Security not being there when they’re ready to retire (68%), and being able to manage expenses and lifestyle choices during retirement (52%).

Because of these challenges and concerns about their savings, many are interested in solutions that can help. Three in four women say they wish their 401(k) provided a “pension-like” income stream, and nine in 10 women say that they would be at least somewhat likely to roll over their money into an in-plan protected retirement solution if it was offered to them.

“Women who participated in our study say a pension-like income stream would reduce their stress, increase their financial security and improve their peace of mind,” said Marasco. “This sentiment aligns with our research showing pension holders are more financially confident and less concerned about outliving their money than those without pensions. It’s time for employers to extend those same benefits to today’s workers by offering a guaranteed lifetime income investment solutions through their qualified employer-sponsored plan.”

Learn more about our Protected Retirement solutions and how you can offer plan participants guaranteed income for life and protection against market volatility.

For more information on the findings review the complete survey results.

Survey methodology

Edelman Data and Intelligence (DXI) conducted an online survey of 1,000 U.S. plan participants ages 45+, 100 participants ages 35 to 44, and 100 participants ages 22 to 34 with access to a 401(k), 403(b), 457(b) or a government defined contribution plan at their work. The study was conducted from August 10 through 28, 2023.