You’ve heard a lot about the wage disparity between men and women. So it probably comes as no surprise that retirement savings differ between the genders as well. A 2014 study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute uncovered a significant gap in the savings of men and women.
According to the study, the average IRA balance among women is $81,700. Among men, the average balance is $139,467. Men have saved, on average, $57,767 more than women!
A large part of this disparity may be due to the fact that women are more often the ones taking extended time off from their careers. It makes sense that if a woman is not working outside the home, she is probably not contributing to a retirement account. And of course, when she does reenter the workforce, she may face lower wages and reduced saving power.
In the past, women often relied on their husbands to provide a comfortable retirement income. But divorce was less common back then, too. These days, women should take measures to save an amount equal to their male counterparts, or they could face a reduced quality of life in retirement.
A spousal IRA makes it possible for women to catch up in the retirement savings game. All of the typical tax benefits and contribution limits of other IRAs still apply, but the spousal IRA allows the employed spouse to set aside retirement funds for the unemployed spouse. Women (or men, for that matter) who are considering taking time off from their careers should consult with their spouse about opening and funding a spousal IRA during that time. Then, when they reenter the workforce at a later date, their retirement savings are on equal footing with their spouse.
As with any other retirement savings vehicle, a spousal IRA is subject to some complicated rules and procedures. Talk with your financial planner about the benefits and possible tax complications of funding this type of retirement plan.