The #MeToo movement has shed light on the gender gaps that exist in wages and representation in executive suites across industries. But there’s another, even larger gender gap that doesn’t get as much attention: the wealth gap, according to a new report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, a consulting firm focused on aging issues.
Take the wage gap and compound it by women taking more time out of their careers than men to care for children or aging relatives. It ripples over a lifetime of savings into a wealth gap that leaves women with less than men in total financial resources, including earnings, investment, retirement savings, and property. As a result, a woman at retirement may have accumulated as much as $1 million less than a man, assuming both were earning median wages and the woman took three breaks from work over her career to care for children, parents, and a spouse, while her partner continued working, according to the report.
It’s not just a matter of parity. Women, on average, live five years longer than men, leaving them less to fund what often can be a longer and costlier retirement. By age 85, women outnumber men two to one, and 81% of centenarians are women, according to the report. More than three-quarters of those who are widowed are women, which means many women will be on their own and financially self-reliant in their later years.
Women, on average, enter retirement two years earlier than men, often to join an older spouse in retirement—or to care for him. But when women end up needing assistance, they are often on their own and require formal long-term care. That feeds into an additional $194,000 for health-care costs for the average woman, 39% higher than for the average man. Women also tend to have more multiple chronic conditions than men, and those over 65 have twice the estimated lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared with men, according to the report. “Longevity is a critical issue for women, probably one of the biggest reasons why women’s needs are so different than men’s in terms of financial saving and investing,” says Annamaria Lusardi, academic director of George Washington University’s Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center, in the report.
Yet according to the report, most financial-planning models are created with men’s career paths, salaries, lifespans, and preferences in mind. For example, Age Wave’s review of 19 retirement calculators found that these ubiquitous tools rarely account for the breaks women tend to make from their careers for caregiving.