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Women of the Baby Boom generation remain more tentative about their retirement financial planning prowess than Baby Boomer men, but exhibit a more positive attitude about the length, productivity and personal fulfillment of their careers and retirement pursuits, according to a major new survey of the Baby Boom generation by Scudder, Stevens & Clark, Inc.

“Baby Boomer women’s confidence in investing and in their financial futures still lags behind men’s and with good reason: while women live longer, they have traditionally made less money and have had fewer pension benefits to support their extended lives,” said Scudder Managing Director Dudley H. Ladd. “But the gap is closing rapidly, especially since Baby Boomer women are pursuing later-life work with more enthusiasm and commitment than men, as shown by the results of our survey.”

The Scudder survey is the first part of a three-year research effort by Scudder to gain a deeper understanding of the Baby Boom generation. It was conducted by the National Center for Women and Retirement Research (NCWRR) at Southampton College of Long Island University, under the direction of Dr. Christopher L. Hayes, executive director of NCWRR. The survey polled 1,140 Baby Boomers with household incomes of at least $30,000. Unlike previous research of this group, the Scudder survey explores not only Baby Boomers’ current financial habits and attitudes about retirement, but also examines factors that have shaped these behaviors. These factors include the environment, education, lifestyle, work experience and their overall outlook on life.

Women: Still more tentative about retirement finances than men

Overall, men exhibited a more upbeat attitude about financial planning for retirement than women did. “This may be attributed to the fact that men have long considered retirement preparation to be their principal responsibility given their historic role in society, and have had more opportunity to pursue this goal and cultivate a positive attitude about it,” said NCWRR’s Dr. Hayes, who is also Professor of Psychology at Southampton College.

The survey found that 43% of women (vs. 36% of Baby Boomers overall) are more likely to rely on friends and family for financial advice, whereas Boomer men are more likely to rely on personal research (76%). Twenty-three percent of men said planning for retirement was their key concern, compared with 17% of women. Women are also more likely to agree that they have not spent enough time planning for retirement, and that they have no idea how much money they will need for a secure retirement.

“Baby Boomer women and men find it difficult to be future- oriented because they are often totally focused on present concerns, albeit of a different variety,” said Dr. Hayes. According to the survey, women are more focused on day-to-day priorities, including their children’s schoolwork and reducing credit card debt, while men are more concerned with maintaining their current lifestyles and purchasing a home.

40% of respondents–43% women and 33% men–indicated they felt a lack of financial knowledge. The fact that women more openly acknowledge the need to become more savvy may give them something of an edge over men. “Women appear to be more realistic about the degree to which they are prepared. That recognition indicates they have removed the first major obstacle to overcome in adequately arranging for a comfortable retirement,” said Scudder’s Dudley Ladd

Women: A growing edge over men when it comes to cultivating positive attitudes about work and later years

“Many Baby Boomer women are demonstrating more interest in their careers than men, and this bodes well for their financial well-being and their saving and investment activity,” said Dr. Hayes.

The most frequently cited life concern by women was “career decision/changes” (22% for both men and women), whereas men more frequently cited “marriage/relationships” (25% for men and 17% for women). Fifty-one percent of Baby Boomer men, but only 45% of women, plan to retire before age 65, and more women (22%) plan on not retiring than men (19%).

More women see retirement as “new opportunities” (39% for women vs. 33% for men), whereas men see it as “leisure” (45% for men vs. 32% for women). Far more women (33% vs. 21% for men) plan to be involved in a “cause” during retirement.

“We are seeing that women want to enrich their work lives at a time of life when men see themselves reducing their work-related roles,” said Dr. Hayes. “Women see middle-age as a new frontier for personal and professional growth, and this could result in greater financial parity among men and women. Men, on the other hand, seem to be placing an emphasis beyond what might be expected on relationships and family, implying a heightened degree of social equity between the sexes.”

Founded in 1919, Scudder, Stevens & Clark, Inc. is one of the country’s oldest and largest global investment management firms. Scudder introduced America’s first no-load mutual fund in 1928 and the nation’s first international fund in 1953. Scudder currently manages nearly $37 billion in two families of open-end funds, the Scudder Funds and the AARP Investment Program from Scudder.

The National Center for Women and Retirement Research, founded in 1988, focuses on the pre-retirement planning needs of mid-life women. It is based at Southampton College, Long Island University, a multi-campus, doctoral-degree-granting institution that is among the 10 largest private universities in the United States in terms of enrollment. If you wish to contact Dr. Hayes, please call the National Center for Women and Retirement Research at 516/283-4827.

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