If you worry sometimes that you're worrying too much, and not taking enough action, you've got a lot of company. The folks at ShareBuilder (which you can read more about in our Broker Center) recently released the results of their second annual Women & Investing Survey, with this bottom line: "When it comes to personal finances, many women are worried about their financial future, but are either unwilling or unable to take action to improve their situation."
I suspect that women are far from the only ones in such a condition. And beyond worrying, the problem seems mainly to be about procrastination. Many of us know we need to plan for our financial futures, yet we put off saving and investing in earnest for retirement. According to an article in the Journal of College Student Development, a 1992 study showed that 52% of students need help with procrastination. I don't think these folks were suddenly cured, come graduation.
What's behind procrastination? You know the story. You're constantly under pressure, tight deadlines, and feeling restless. You're too stressed out to concentrate on your work, so you decide to bag it and try again in the morning. Only then, you're even more stressed, because the deadline's a day closer. It just gets worse, and you still don't get anything done.
Let's get back to that survey now, though. Here are some of its findings:
Thirty-six percent of women say they worry about retirement "all the time" (versus a still-significant 29% of men).
Thirty-six percent of women say they are well prepared for retirement, versus 48% of men.
Forty-nine percent of the women surveyed said they saved less than 5% of their total income last year. Half as many women as men save more than 10% of their annual income.
Twenty-three percent of women who have a retirement plan available to them at work do not participate at all in that plan (versus 17% of men).
Forty-one percent of women have a brokerage account, versus 55% of men, and women in general often feel "intimidated" and "overwhelmed" by the thought of investing.
Only 40% of the women surveyed say they have any kind of "financial game plan" at all (compared to 55% of men). In other words, fully 60% of women and 45% of men have no financial game plan at all. Yikes!
That paints an alarming enough picture, but it gets more confounding: only a third of women said that despite spending more money on dining out than they do on clothes, electronics, entertainment, sporting events and travel, they're least willing to cut back on dining out in order to save for retirement.
The silver linings
Believe it or not, there is some good news in all this. For one thing, it doesn't seem like many women (and men) need to be convinced of the importance of preparing for retirement. Another plus is that even if you've put off tending to your finances until relatively late in life, there's still time to make your retirement more comfortable, by taking some steps now.
Remember, after all, that even if you're 45, you still have 20 years until you hit 65. Even if you're 55, you might be able to enjoy 15 years of stock market growth before you hit 70. (And even once you commence retirement, it may make sense to keep at least a chunk of your assets in stocks.)
Mutual funds can help you reach your goals -- especially if you don't want to spend hours studying individual companies regularly. As just one example of many long-term strong performers, consider the T. Rowe Price Media & Telecom (PRMTX) fund. It has racked up average annual gains of 24% over the past three years and 19% over the past decade with top holdings like EchoStar Communications
We want to help
Let us help you with your retirement planning, via our Rule Your Retirement newsletter service. It's prepared by Robert Brokamp, a smart and witty guy who distills what you really need to know into a manageable volume each month. A free trial will give you full access to all past issues, allowing you to gather valuable tips and even read how some folks have retired early and well. Robert regularly offers recommendations of promising stocks and mutual funds, too.
The following articles may also be of interest: