When it comes to saving for retirement, female clients are often at a significant disadvantage to men, as seven in 10 (69%) will make financial sacrifices for others throughout their lives, according to the results of a study published Thursday from Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC).
Nearly one-third (30%) of women say they’ve reduced or stopped saving to take care of children or elderly loved ones. And by the time women reach age 55+, they’ve amassed approximately $125,000 in personal savings, half the average savings of men ($250,000). Women are also nearly three times more likely than men to quit work to provide care (16% compared to 6%).
Even so, women have significant agency in their financial affairs, with three-quarters (73%) involved in their own long-term financial planning. This percentage is even higher among women 55+, with 82% actively involved in their own money management.
“Women take on the bulk of care responsibilities for children and aging loved ones. However, it’s encouraging to see that despite the pull of family duties, women are jumping into the driver’s seat when it comes to their own financial well-being,” Kathleen Woodard, senior vice president, CIBC Imperial Service, says in a statement. “Making the decision to quit working, reduce hours or forgo career advancement can have a direct impact on savings, so it’s critical to put a plan in place and take steps to address any savings shortfall to ensure their own financial security down the road.”
This is why CIBC recommends female clients emphasize saving early in life, even when it seems difficult. Ramping up RRSP contributions prior to a leave or having a spouse contribute to a woman’s retirement savings during time off can reduce the risk of poor retirement readiness. And women would be well served by working with an advisor to set up an investment plan for the long term, CIBC says, especially as Statistics Canada says women can expect to live about four years longer than men.
Another strategy female clients should consider is a more measured approach to time off, by splitting care responsibilities with a partner to reduce the economic impact on one person, Woodard says.
“If you intend to take some time to provide care for a loved one, consider how you might split care responsibilities to reduce the economic impact on one caregiver and take advantage of dual employer benefits,” she says.
It’s not just parenthood, either. Many women aged 55-64 are already responsible for the care of aging parents (42%), which costs an estimated $33 billion nationally in out-of-pocket expenses and time off work, CIBC says.
“You may make a deliberate choice to take time off to care for kids and plan for it accordingly, but more often than not, we don’t plan for unexpected curveballs that can affect our loved ones’ physical or mental health and can impact any plans to catch up on savings,” Woodard says. “Your best bet is to plan ahead and take steps now to help you weather uncertainty later on.”