Women more likely than men to have no retirement savings

Those who married once more likely than others to have retirement savings

Brittany King

Many adults approaching retirement age may not be financially prepared to retire: 49% of adults ages 55 to 66 had no personal retirement savings in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP).

How many times you marry and whether you have children with one or more partners can have continual and lasting impacts on retirement finances.

SIPP is uniquely able to assist in this research as it collects data on all members in the household, marital historyfertility history (including multiple partner fertility), and retirement savings. The analyses in this story are based on 2018 SIPP data.

Do Men or Women Have More Retirement Savings?

About 50% of women ages 55 to 66 have no personal retirement savings, compared to 47% of men (Figure 1).

Women also lag men at the other end of the spectrum: 22% of women have $100,000 or more in personal retirement savings compared to 30% of men.

Because 65% of men and 58% of women ages 55 to 66 are married (defined as those whose spouse lives in the same household), the amount of retirement savings available is difficult to assess. Married couples plan their retirement together and save together.

Women and men have more comparable retirement savings when couples’ savings are combined with personal savings. However, there is still a smaller percentage of women who have retirement savings of $100,000 or more compared with their male counterparts (34.2% compared to 36.4%).

The term “retirement savings” is used here to mean the combined measure of personal and spousal retirement savings for those who are married and personal retirement savings for those not living with a spouse.

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Retirement savings by sex
 

How Marital History Affects Retirement Savings

Marriage, divorce, widowhood, and any change in marital status can have lasting impacts on finances and savings.

Among those married once:

  • About 35% have no retirement savings, compared to 60% of those who never married and 40% of those who married more than once (Figure 2).
  • 4 in 10 of those who married once have $100,000 or more in retirement savings, compared to 2 in 10 of those who never married and 1 in 3 of those who married two or more times.

The same pattern occurs when we look at men and women separately.

Among both men and women, adults married once are less likely to have no retirement savings and more likely to have $100,000 or more in retirement savings, compared to those who have never been married and those who have been married two or more times.

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Retirement savings by times married by sex
 

How Do Children Impact Retirement Savings?

Whether an adult has biological children and whether they have children with multiple partners can have financial impacts across the life course and specifically influence retirement savings.

Compared to approximately 36% of adults who have children with one partner — referred to as single-partner fertility (SPF) — a larger percentage of those who have no children (about 42%) and those with multiple-partner fertility (MPF) (about 49%) have no retirement savings (Figure 3).

Furthermore, adults who have children with a single partner are also more likely to have $100,000 or more in retirement savings than their counterparts with other fertility histories.

When we analyze women and men separately, the impact of fertility history on retirement savings varies.

A smaller percentage of men who have children with one partner have no retirement savings and a larger percentage have $100,000 or more in retirement savings, compared to those with no children and those who have children with multiple partners.

Women who have children with a single partner are more likely to have no retirement savings than women who have no children (38.2% compared to 34.2%). Among those who do have retirement savings, the women with no children do not differ from those who have children with a single partner.

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Retirement savings by fertility history by sex
 

Multiple Marriages and Children

How many times people marry is also related to your amount of retirement savings (Figure 4).

Among adults who have never married, those who have children with a single partner are more likely to have no retirement savings than those with no children (72.7% compared to 52.7%).

In addition, a larger percentage of never married adults who have children with multiple partners have no retirement savings than never married parents with a single partner (81.7% compared to 72.7%).

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Retirement savings by fertility history and times married
 

Among never married men, those who have children are more likely to have no retirement savings and less likely to have $100,000 or more saved than the men without children.

Men who have children with multiple partners are more likely to have no retirement savings than men who have children with a single partner, among those who never married (Figure 5).

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Retirement savings by fertility history and times married for men
 

An association between fertility history and retirement savings can be seen across marital histories for women (Figure 6).

A smaller percentage of women with children from multiple partners have $100,000 or more in retirement savings regardless of how many times they have been married, compared with mothers with a single partner and women with no children who have been married the same number of times.

Among never married women and women married two or more times, a larger percentage of women without children have at least $100,000 in retirement savings compared to women with children with single or multiple partners.

Among women married once, a smaller percentage of women without children have no retirement savings compared to those with children with one or more partners.

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Retirement savings by fertility history and times married for women
 

As the U.S. population ages, examining differences in retirement savings within the context of family history sheds light on whether men and women are prepared for retirement.

The SIPP is a nationally representative longitudinal survey administered by the U.S. Census Bureau that provides comprehensive information on the dynamics of income, employment, household composition, and government program participation.

For more information, please visit the SIPP website. For technical documentation and more information about SIPP data quality, please visit the SIPP Technical Documentation website. The estimates presented here are subject to sampling and non-sampling error.

Source: Census Bureau | Brittany King is a survey statistician in the Census Bureau’s Fertility and Family Statistics Branch.

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