Planning for Retirement: How Men and Women Differ

“The Boomer” is a column written for adults nearing retirement age and those already in their “golden years.” It will also promote reader interaction by posting e-mail responses and answering reader questions. E-mail your questions or topic ideas to

When I was a kid and I wanted something, I went straight to my mom. I knew that even if her first answer was “no”, I could sometimes nag her enough that she would give in to my request. However, when her response was to go ask my father, that usually sent me running to my room crying because there was no nagging dad--when he said no, that was it.

In all families, moms and dads take on different roles when it comes to discipline, managing finances and schedule planning.

When it comes to retirement planning and lending money, men and women take different approaches and hold different views. Ameriprise Financial recently conducted a survey that explored the differences in how baby boomer men and women approach financial conversations and support family members. I reached out to Suzanna de Baca, vice president of wealth strategies at Ameriprise Financial, to find out the differences and their impact on financial planning. Here’s what she had to say:

Boomer: The survey finds boomer men are more optimistic about their financial future than women. Why the substantial difference and what do you feel is the reason for the significant drop in these numbers since 2007?

de Baca: What we found in a 2011 report was that more men are prepared for retirement than women, which may contribute to them also feeling more optimistic about it . They’re more likely to say they have set money aside, and determined the amount of income they’ll need in retirement. So in general, men may have more retirement savings socked away and more of a financial plan in place than women do.

Men are also less likely to have exited the workforce to stay at home with children or aging parents, giving them more opportunity to save in many circumstances. The overall level of optimism has declined significantly among both sexes since 2007, which isn’t surprised due to the financial crisis and recession.

Boomer: What do you think the reason is that moms are more open to discuss money and finances with their families?

de Baca: Women may be used to having day-to-day discussions with their families about expenses, which could pave the way for more weighty financial conversations.  Women could also be talking more about money because they are aware that they may outlive their spouse, and there's an element of financial responsibility to pass along to family members.

It’s interesting to note that while moms are more comfortable discussing money issues with their kids – in particular their daughters – it can still be a stressful discussion. In fact, the daughters of boomers are much more likely than men to say that discussing money is “very” or “somewhat likely” to cause tension or an argument in their family (58% vs. 41%).

Boomer: What reason do you feel boomer men are providing more financial support to their adult children than women?             

de Baca: It may come easier for women to have conversations, and for men to solve a family member’s need quickly by taking action and grabbing for the wallet. In reality, both of these things – talking or funding – should go hand in hand. Whether or not female or male family members from every family fit these into these roles – the talkers or the helpers – the truth is that the financial role that a family member plays can affect the way he or she communicates and works to find solutions.

Boomer: What else did the survey find when it comes to how gender plays a role in financial planning?

de Baca: Men are more likely to help their children purchase a car and help fund their car insurance, and they may have learned this from their “silent generation” fathers, who were also more likely to help their children purchase the same kinds of things. It was also interesting to me that more daughters of boomers are helping their parents now than in 2007, which could possibly be either the cause or effect of the fact that more boomer women have financial conversations with their daughters, and that more daughters are worried about their boomer parents’ financial situation for retirement than their sons.