The United States has a retirement crisis. Half of retirees retired on Social Security alone, and future generations are even less prepared. We’ve gotten a bad deal on how we prepare to exit the workforce. Many of us delay saving for the perfect time, but that perfect time never arrives.
We kick the can down the road and don’t pick it up until it’s too late – largely because we don’t talk about it, and that’s especially true for women. But Save10 is addressing this crisis head-on, one woman at a time.
How Did We Get Here?
Back in the day, we worked for the same company our whole lives. Upon retirement we received a pension and could sail off into the sunset. Eventually pensions mostly went away quietly – too quietly. Most folks didn’t quite “get it.” Pensions were replaced by 401(k) plans. It’s now up to us to save for our own retirement, but the education and training are lacking. The 401(k) plans, sadly, did not come with vigorous financial education. We took on the responsibility without any of the knowledge. Government officials are trying to fix the crisis with sweeping policies and legislation that likely will take decades to be effective. We at Save10 understand the reality of our retirement situation, and we are taking matters into our own hands.
The Save10 challenge is a simple message delivered personally. We are asking women we know to commit to saving at least 10 percent of their income for retirement. And they are asking their friends, one-by-one, and we are building a savings’ army.
Women have longer life expectancies than men, step out of the workforce more often as caregivers, and make less money than men. This means that saving is morecritical for women than for men. But studies also show that we have a gender wealth gap where women “own” or save 32 cents of every dollar, compared to men.
Women also feel particularly alienated by the financial industry. Our core belief is that if we can get formal and informal messaging to young women in college or just starting their new jobs after college, to save 10 percent, to avoid credit card debt, to pay down those loans, and more importantly to feel informed and empowered right out of the gate, we think they will feel a lot less alienated from their finances.
Research concludes that once women start saving into a retirement plan there is little likelihood that they will change their contribution, and the younger they start, the better. We know that if most young people under 30 could elect to save 10 percent into their work retirement plans or personal IRA’s, they should be able to retire at 65, the normal age of retirement.
This campaign is for everyone, but we believe that by focusing on young women and girls we can better program an entire generation to be savings driven and debt averse. And it’s working.
The Savings Army
For the last few months, women across Arkansas have mobilized to normalize conversations about money, talking to their coworkers, friends, and family about the importance of saving. We’re meeting women where they are, in person and online, to empower them to invest in their future selves. We currently have nearly 5,000 women in a private Save10 Facebook group sharing our hopes, fears, and successes around finances and encouraging one another to honor our Save10 commitment.
Save10 has trained dozens of volunteer speakers, women who are willing to share their savings stories so that others are inspired to take the Save10 challenge as well. Companies and community organizations have jumped in to help spread the message, hosting “retirement awareness” or “Save10 days” to educate their employees and members about the importance of saving at least 10% for retirement. At our partner companies, HR representatives are available to help women enroll in the company retirement plan or increase their contributions.
For individuals without company retirement plans, we offer resources explaining how to save at least 10 percent and where to put it. For women who can’t afford to save 10 percent toward retirement because of debt, we encourage them to put 10 percent toward extra payments and then later convert that 10 percent into emergency savings, then retirement savings. No woman who desires financial security is left to figure this out on her own. No matter where she is on her journey to financial independence, there is an army of women and resources to support her.
The Power of the Save10 Challenge
One woman who recently took the challenge remarked that even though she believed in saving, she simply didn’t know that her 5 percent contribution to her retirement plan wasn’t enough. She talked about how disappointing it was to think that in her first job and her first paycheck, she never would have even known the difference between 5 percent and 10 percent. She is making it her mission that young women graduating should get to have this simple message ingrained in them.
Another woman in her 60s who took the Save10 challenge opened her first savings account just last week and then proudly urged her daughters to do the same.
Our dream is that there will be 10,000 such stories–not just of women who save, but who then share this message with others. We know it’s possible. We challenge all women to take the Save10 challenge (bit.ly/save10challenge) and join the army of women committed to retiring on its own terms.
Save10 is an initiative of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas.
Sarah Catherine Gutierrez, co-founder of Save 10, founder and partner at Aptus Financial
Stephanie Matthews, co-founder and campaign director of Save10