Delving into the Disconnect Between Women and Retirement

PIMCO’s Christine Long leads a discussion with Suzanne Shu, UCLA's Anderson School of Management, and George Fraser, Retirement Benefits Group, on why women tend to prioritize other financial goals ahead of retirement and how the industry can better help them prepare.

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Christine Long, Senior Vice President, Head of DC Marketing: Hi. I'm Christine Long with PIMCO. With me today is Suzanne Shu, a professor from UCLA's Anderson School of Management, and George Fraser, an advisor with Retirement Benefits Group.

PIMCO's research has found that when it comes to women's top money goals, women rank stability, lifestyle, and financial independence ahead of their own retirement.

Cover of PIMCO Research Report: Women, Investing and the Pursuit of Wealth-Life Balance

In fact, only 17 percent of women rank retirement as a top goal.

Text-on-screen: Roughly 1/2 of women surveyed described themselves as more time-poor than financially poor

The research also tells us that women are taking a short-term focus in saying that planning for tomorrow is so difficult because they already have so much on their plates today. They wanna know more about how to optimize their money today, rather than talk about retirement, which seems further off.

I would love to get your perspectives on how we as an industry can be addressing this and are there behavioral elements here that we should understand.

Suzanne Shu, Associate Professor, UCLA Anderson School of Management: So, I think there's a few issues going on there, particularly with women in thinking about retirement.

One is we know from the research and asking people about life expectations, how long do you think you're going to live.

Women tend to be more pessimistic than men relative to the actual mortality tables that social security for example puts out. So, women tend to think that they are not going to live as long as the data actually tells us they will.

And so, if you think about that, it can have two big impacts on their planning.

One is that they expect there's less years that they're going to have to support themselves during retirement. The other is they might have a belief that if they're married, that that spouse is going to be there for all of those years, when the reality is when we look at the mortality tables, women do tend to live a lot longer than the men do.

So, there's certainly a bias in the thinking there that could get in the way with retirement planning.

Shot of people walking on a crowded sidewalk

I think the other thing that's really interesting is based on the research you've done and the findings that you have, about the fact that women are very sort of short run focused, right, you know, I have children, I have a spouse, I have a house, a job, all of those sorts of things.

And because of sort of that outward focus, it becomes hard to focus on your own needs, and to really take the time to think forward far enough to realize there might be a point where that financial independence that you're worried about today is actually going to matter even more in retirement, and should be the motivation for saving and making sure you're protected when you get to that stage.

Christine Long: Interesting. Sounds like an opportunity for more education and communication. George, I have a question more specifically for you in the 401(k) space.

PIMCO's research found that only about 14 percent of women are maxing out their retirement income, versus 26 percent of men. And 57 percent of women report that they rarely think about the funds in their plan and their retirement portfolio in general.

How might you think about approaching that issue and using some of the approaches that perhaps have worked for you with this particular segment?

George Fraser, Managing Director, Retirement Benefits Group: Well I think you hit the nail on the head, Christine. It's about education.

So I think there's a lack of education. There can be more focus on women exclusively in the plans. And advisors have to do their job with this. We need to be in front of folks, plans, men, women, etc. And we need to be spending that time providing the appropriate education and making them aware. There are lots of folks who decide to stay single, etc. And they need to be made aware that these are things that need to take place. So, I think just generally better education across the board is the direction we need to be going in more and more.

Christine Long: Excellent. Well thank you both for your time today.

For more insights and information, visit



Expert Salon: In September 2018, we conducted expert salons in Newport Beach and New York City to capture ideas from thought leaders in women’s perspectives on investing, lifestyle and goals across media, finance and communications.

Financial Decision Maker Survey: This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of PIMCO from May 3-May 16, 2018, among 1,500 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, including 748 women. All respondents had over $10,000 in investable household assets and at least some financial decision-making responsibility within the household. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. In March 2018, we also hosted 2 salon sessions to explore issues around women and investing with thought leaders, influencers and experts.

All investments contain risk and may lose value.

The survey results contain the opinions of the respondents and not necessarily those of PIMCO. The data contained within the report may not be related to any PIMCO product or strategy and should not be relied upon for any investment decision.

This material contains the opinions of the manager and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material has been distributed for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed.


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