Survey shows large gender gap on financial literacy in retirement

The American College of Financial Services recently had survey participants aged 60 to 75 take a quiz to determine their level of financial literacy, especially as it relates to retirement. The unsettling news is that only 35 percent of men passed the quiz. The shocking news is that only 18 percent of women did.

It is a rather challenging quiz, but it’s important. It might be tempting simply to follow the outline of an online retirement calculator or turn everything over to a financial adviser, but you need to have a solid understanding of how much money you will have and how much you can spend without cutting into the underlying investments.


The quiz contained questions about annuities, income streams, health care and long-term care expenses, and some basic financial terms. An analysis by Next Avenue found that both men and women were far more confident about retirement than their actual positions justified.

Here are some disconnects revealed by the quiz and an accompanying survey:

55 percent of women surveyed told researchers that they were extremely confident that they would have sufficient money for a comfortable retirement — but less than a quarter passed the quiz.

80 percent of married women told the researchers that they share financial decision-making responsibilities with their spouses — but only 35 percent of married men did. That indicates lack of communication.

There was some good news about older women’s investment style:

The women were more likely than the men to say they were cautious or risk-averse investors, which is the appropriate stance during retirement.

The women were also more likely to see risks in retirement, such as cuts to Social Security, the cost of healthcare and paying for long-term care, as matters for concern.

The women were less likely to go to friends for financial information and advice. They were, however, just as likely to seek counsel from a financial adviser.

The women (55 percent) were far more likely than men (42 percent) to say it is extremely important for their adviser to provide education about the risk of having too little money for retirement. Even more of the women (60 percent) said it was important to get education about managing investments, versus 47 percent of men.

Being willing to admit what you don’t know and to seek out solid information and sound advice is a characteristic that will serve you well now, as you invest, and later on, as you reap the rewards of a lifetime’s work.

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Kevin Tharpe

With 25 years of experience, Kevin understands how estate planning, special needs planning, and government benefits programs work together. This is a crucial element of a thorough plan. He explains your eligibility for benefits programs and ensures that you do not make costly mistakes that may disqualify you or deplete your assets.

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