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The Retirement Income Gender Gap: MassMutual study finds women expect to run out of money five years too soon in retirement

August 2nd, 2018

Women less certain, less prepared for retirement than men; the good news is that women are open to education and advice.


SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Aug. 2, 2018 – Women run a higher risk than men of being impoverished in old age as women retirees and pre-retirees on average expect to run out of money five years too soon in retirement, according to a new study from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (MassMutual).

“The difficulty that many women face in preparing for retirement leads many to anticipate living less comfortably in retirement and running out of money five years too soon, a stunning development from a retirement-planning perspective, ,” said Teresa Hassara, Head of MassMutual’s Workplace Solutions. “The one positive note is that women express greater openness to financial education and getting professional financial advice, both of which are critical if women are to avoid the prospect of poverty in old age.”

On average, women retirees and pre-retirees expect to spend 25 years in retirement compared to men who expect to live 23 years in retirement, the MassMutual Women’s Retirement Risk Study finds. However, women expect their income will only last 20 years – falling five years short – compared to men who anticipate their income will last 25 years, providing a two-year cushion. On average, retired women anticipate living 30 years in retirement while pre-retiree women expect to live only 21 years, according to the study.

Women are less likely than men to accurately project how long their savings will last in retirement, according to the study. Nearly half of women (43 percent) are unsure of how long their savings will last compared to one third of men. Notably, the difference is driven by the 46 percent of pre-retirement women who say they don’t know how long their income will last.

The Confidence Divide

Overall, the study points to several reasons why women anticipate a more difficult time financially than men when it comes to retirement. Those include being less confident about managing savings and investments, optimizing Social Security, replacing a higher percentage of their pre-retirement income, and taking investment risk.

“There are many barriers that make it more challenging for women to prepare to retire, a reality that we need to overcome if women are to enjoy a secure retirement,” Hassara said. “MassMutual’s study shows that many women are less comfortable with financial issues and money in general, so it’s critical for them to have access to more education, professional financial advice, planning tools and other resources to meet these challenges head on.”

According to the study, 79 percent of retired women are receiving professional financial advice, compared to only 68 percent of men.

Income Replacement

Only about a third of both men and women say they will need to replace at least 75 percent of their pre-retirement income when they retire, the study shows, with 41 percent of men and 45 percent of women saying that will only need 50 percent or less. Retired women are more likely than retired men to say they need to replace less than half of their pre-retirement income to live comfortably (40 percent vs. 28 percent).

MassMutual’s benchmark for retirement preparedness is the ability for retirees to replace 75 percent of their pre-retirement income from all sources, including retirement savings, Social Security and a pension, if available.

Women are also less likely than men to say that they will have enough money to meet their lifestyle goals (58 percent vs. 68 percent) or that their retirement income will last as long as they live in retirement (59 percent vs 72 percent). Retired women, on the other hand, are much more confident than their pre-retiree peers about generating income for as long as they live (90 percent vs. 47 percent) and having enough money to meet their lifestyle goals in retirement (91 percent vs. 45 percent).

Meanwhile, pre-retired women are less likely than pre-retired men to say they know how to make the most of Social Security (62 percent vs. 70 percent).

Retirement Savings Risk

Women tend to be more concerned about market volatility and mismanaging their investments than men, the study finds. Pre-retirees are more likely to worry than retirees.

Level of Concern



Very or somewhat concerned

Not too concerned

Not at all concerned

A major stock market downturn









Major investment losses right before retirement









Stock market volatility









Making poor investment decision leading to significant loss









Taking too much investment risk










While nearly all women say they want their investments to grow during retirement (97 percent), women are less comfortable with investment risk and tend to believe they should become considerably more conservative in retirement than their male counterparts, according to the study. Women who work with a financial advisor (71 percent) are more likely to say their advisor recommended that they invest more aggressively.

“Retirement plan providers and financial advisors need to do a better job of connecting with women, providing more education to help them become more comfortable with longer-term investment concepts such as taking smart risks, meeting income needs and how to balance growth and preservation,” Hassara said. “Our network of retirement education professionals is making a special point of reaching out to women at the worksite and urging them to participate in retirement planning seminars and one-on-one sessions.”

About MassMutual

MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. MassMutual offers a wide range of financial products and services, including life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, annuities, retirement plans and other employee benefits. For more information, visit