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Study: Few women secure on retirement planning

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Posted: Friday, January 20, 2012 9:59 am

When it comes to retirement planning, most women prefer to make their own decisions but rely primarily on friends and family for advice. Few have a written plan for retirement and most admit they "guessed" how much they'll need to live on.

Only 8 percent feel "very confident" about their ability to retire comfortably.

Those are among the findings of a national survey of retirement trends released this month by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies in Los Angeles.

Now in its 12th year, the survey talked with more than 1,800 women and compared their responses with those of men.

We discussed the findings with Catherine Collinson, president of the retirement studies center. Here's an excerpt:

Q: It's been well documented that women tend to be less financially prepared for retirement than men, partly because they typically earn less in lifetime income, take more time out for parenting or care giving, and have fewer pension or 401(k) reserves. Based on your decade of surveys, is that changing at all?

A: Yes and no. We are seeing some changes in the right direction; however, we're not seeing enough change. For women working full time, we're seeing really encouraging signs. For the first time, women in the workforce full time are just as likely to have access to a 401(k) as men. And the participation rate is on par with men. It's 84 percent, which is as high as we've seen.

Q: Fewer than half of women surveyed felt "somewhat" or "very" confident about retiring with a comfortable lifestyle. How much of that can be blamed on the recession?

A: Even before the recession, retirement confidence was low. Now it's even lower. In many ways, the recession has been a huge setback for retirement savings for men and women. Unemployment, (stock) market volatility and low interest rates make ... the challenges facing retirement even more challenging.

Q: Was it surprising that so few people - men or women - said they use a personal finance professional?

A: That was surprising. ... You want to ask questions and seek guidance from a reputable adviser who's trustworthy. In the last five years there've been some pretty high-profile advisers, like Bernie Madoff, who haven't been trustworthy. ... You have to do your due diligence: Be sure they have the right credentials, have good personal references and a good track record.

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