July 13, 2011

USA: Couples Save Signigicantly More Than Singles For Retirement, Says New Study

NEW YORK, NY / The Huffington Post / HuffPostWomen / July 13, 2011

Are you enjoying your singledom? Living life (and spending) in the moment, not worrying about what's to come? Chances are, you aren't saving enough for your retirement, according to new data.

A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research and researchers at the non-profit firm RAND Corporation found that 51 percent of their sample of single people aged 66 to 69 had a serious risk of running into financial trouble during retirement. Comparatively, only 23 percent of the couples in the same age group were at risk of outliving their savings, reports TIME.

Research also found that women who had not completed high school were most at risk of running out of money before they die. According to the data, a whopping 73 percent in that group would be facing serious money problems in retirement.

According to TIME, while the study found differences in financial preparedness among people with varying levels of education, the biggest difference was evident when examining marital status:

For instance, while just 27 percent of unmarried women without a high school degree were likely to have enough money saved for retirement, 68 percent of married women with the same educational background had put away enough for their post-working years.

The finding that couples are more likely to have enough savings is perhaps surprising because couples have a high chance of at least one member surviving into their 90s. The study didn’t offer any conclusions as to why couples are better savers than individuals.

Other studies may help answer that question.

In January, Slate's Jessica Grose compiled and analyzed research from a survey she designed to see how couples managed their money. Nearly 6,000 people took the survey, their average age was 33 and 48 percent had graduate degrees; 72 percent were married or in a civil union and the remaining 27 percent were not with one percent of the respondents not providing their marital status. She found that 48 percent of the married couples pooled their finances, compared with 9 percent of the couples who cohabited. Those with children were more likely to combine their cash, and those with prior failed marriages were less likely.

But what Grose learned from her research that regardless of how a couple chooses to either combine or separate their personal incomes, setting a household budget "can be the most contentious part of financial coupledom." Basically, there seems to be more of a system of checks and balances over the checkbook with couples. Even if they keep their money in separate accounts there is more discussion about where the money is going.

Another possible explanation for the disparity in savings between married and unmarried individuals of both sexes is how married versus single women fare in retirement savings.

Studies have found that within couples, women typically let men plan for both partners' retirement. In April, Reuters reported that according to research from ING DIrect USA and Daily Worth, 40 percent of married women leave retirement planning to their spouse. And 63 percent of these women had some form of higher education and 74 percent owned their own home.

Single women, who don't have that spousal support, tend not to fare as well. While women are much more likely than men to be single later in life -- according to MSNBC, they're less likely to remarry, and 2009 U.S Census Bureau data showed 40 percent of women over the age of 65 live alone, compared to 19 percent of men -- they're likely to have fewer accrued assets. That same Census data show that women still make about 77 percent of what men make. And the recession didn't help. According to a 2010 study, the number of widowed and divorced women seeking debt relief increased "dramatically" between 2007 and 2010.

MSNBC summarizes older single women's financial dilemma, "They live longer, earn less, and typically lag in savings and financial awareness," reports MSNBC.

Financial education could be the key to turning the situation around. According to the survey by ING DIrect USA and Daily Worth, nearly half of the respondents say they wished they knew more about investing.

Only 13 states require high-school students to take a personal finance course as a graduation requirement, making up only 31 percent of the population, according to a report from the Council of Economic Education. Cathy MacFarlane, head of corporate relations for ING Direct USA told Reuters that it's this "lack of impetuous to improve financial literacy in schools that leads to more women passing the retirement-planning buck."

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