Most Americans struggle to adequately save for retirement,
but women face unique challenges in saving, largely stemming
from a gender pay gap that persists into a retirement wealth
gap. This update of previous research from the National
Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) takes a fresh look at
the data on women’s retirement preparedness.
Relying on data from the 2014 Survey of Income and Program
Participation (SIPP), this research finds that older women
receive approximately 80 percent of the retirement income
that older men receive - nearly identical to the gender pay
gap for American women. The data also reveals that different
groups of women have very different retirement experiences,
with older women in a first marriage faring better than the
rest, and widows, especially those age 80 and older, seeing a
marked decline in income.
The report’s key findings are as follows:
• In 2016, women age 65 and older had a median
household retirement income of $47,244 or 83
percent of median household income for men
• Women earn less than men over the course of their
career. Men with savings in a defined contribution
(DC) plan far surpass the earnings trajectory
of women with savings in a DC plan, and earn
significantly more than women without DC savings.
• Women experience a steep decline in income past age
80. Women age 80 and older are much more likely to
be widows and widowhood presents challenges on
both the income and cost side of retirement.
• There are stark differences in the sources of income
for women in the top and bottom income quintiles.
Women with less than $20,000 of income in
retirement are much more dependent on Social
Security income, whereas women with income
above $80,000 receive much more from earnings and
• Divorce presents a complex set of issues relating to
retirement preparedness. The timing of divorce seems
to matter, as does the division of assets following a
• Caregiving, especially spousal caregiving, has a
strong effect on retirement preparedness, and this
particularly impacts women as they remain much
more likely to provide caregiving than men.