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AARP Collaborates with Ad Council to Boost Women’s Retirement Security

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There is an unfounded myth about women being lousy at planning for their financial futures, which is a baseless claim that has been around too long. At AARP we know that achieving financial security later in life starts early in life. And, saving is fundamental to that success. To address this reality, we partnered with the Ad Council to create a myth-busting campaign that went straight at women’s perceptions of their own financial prowess.

As we considered the strategy for our new retirement saving campaign, we knew it was essential to show-up powerfully, inspirationally, and assertively. The resulting “We Say Save It” PSA campaign does just that by showcasing strong women who challenge the stereotypes that often keep women from thinking about their financial futures.

The team that developed the campaign are mostly women, and they brought their own real-life experiences to the cause. As women, we hear messages, both spoken and implied, that tell us we are bad at managing money. But the interesting thing is we’re often the ones who pay the bills, balance the household budget, and save for a rainy day. Why, then, are women 80% more likely than men to be poor when we retire? 

The campaign unapologetically addresses that question by empowering women to leave the negative narrative behind and take control of their financial futures. We know taking the first steps can be difficult, so the campaign challenges women to take small steps by setting aside 2% of their income for retirement—or an additional 2%, if they already save for retirement.

Like many women, I too needed help getting started with retirement savings. Growing-up I never talked about finances or budgeting let alone saving for retirement. It wasn’t just that my father didn’t talk to his daughters about these issues, he didn’t talk to my brothers either. His generation just didn’t talk about money which created challenges for the next generation.

Soon after I started my career, I quickly realized it was essential that I educate myself about budgeting, savings and the far away (at that moment) life stage called retirement.  At that time, I was deeply struck by old adage – “the best time to start saving was yesterday and the next best time is today.”

If Census projections hold, women will continue to live even longer than the men, with women’s life expectancy at 81, compared to 75 for men. But the vast majority of women aren’t confident about how they’ll fare in those later years: 86% of women say that achieving financial security in retirement is very important to them, but only 33% think they are “very likely” to achieve it. Yikes!

We spend so much time taking care of others that we often sacrifice taking care of ourselves. One lesson of the pandemic, though, is the importance of self-care and that includes financial self-care. Yet based on AARP research, one-third of women came out of the pandemic worse off financially, and one in five had to tap her retirement savings or stop contributing altogether, according to our survey.

The best place to start is to take full advantage of an employer provided retirement account like a 401(k) or 403(b). But consider this: Just under half the women in our survey had a retirement account through their employer, and only 28% had an outside retirement account like an IRA or other retirement funds. We’re talking about all women 25-plus who are currently working or looking for work.

Thinking about your financial future doesn’t just mean setting money aside to do all the fun things we aspire to do in retirement. It also means putting food on the table and affording out-of-pocket health expenses, insurance premiums and prescriptions. In 2020 alone, the Employee Benefit Research Institute said a 65-year-old woman needs $95,000 in savings for a 50% chance of having enough to cover only the premiums and median prescription drug expenses in retirement let alone all the other living expenses.

The good news is AARP wants to be your partner and help make it easy to create a plan for both the nice-to-haves and the need-to-haves in retirement. Our new PSAs are anchored by the website WeSaySaveIt.org, which is full of resources to help women boost their retirement savings. It includes a free online three-minute chat with “Avo℠,” a digital retirement coach that offers a free personalized action plan for saving for retirement.

We can’t keep putting off the small steps necessary to invest in our future. If you’ve been told you can’t, confront that antiquated claim with a resounding “Save it!” If you’re thinking maybe next month or next year you will be in a better position to take action, tell yourself now is the time to “Save it.” And if you need some help on your journey to financial security, take action at WeSaySaveIt.org.

Remember that other adage: “The longest journey starts with one step,” which is true for retirement planning as well. Contributing any amount, regardless of how small, is that first step.