Women have fought for decades for pay and promotion equality, yet they are still behind their male counterparts when it comes to retirement readiness.

The headwinds are strong. Women’s incomes tend to be lower, they have less access to retirement benefits, they live longer and they take more time out of the workforce to be a parent or family caregiver, according to a 2016 study by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. Women are also are less likely to participate in workplace retirement plans and contribute less money each year, according to the study.

But there is a possible fix, and advisors can help. Financial wellness and education reduces this gender savings gap by more than 50%, a 2017 study of 31,000 workers, by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College showed. By increasing financial literacy and implementing long-term education programs, participation by women in retirement plans increases.

This is a trend that many companies are also seeing. Financial Finesse, a workplace wellness company, found that when education programs were coupled with financial mentorship and coaching, the gender savings gap began to close.

So, how can advisors get involved and be a part of this change?

Direct education to female clients
Client review meetings are an opportunity to show clients how their plan is being implemented to meet their goals. These consultations are also a chance to teach clients something new about their situation. Before a review meeting with a client, send an agenda and let them know part of the time will be dedicated to education. If it is a married couple, highlight the importance of financial literacy for both parties. Be warned though, this could come across as condescending, so point to recent studies and suggest solutions to your client’s particular scenario.

Encourage clients to ask about, and participate in, workplace financial wellness programs
Encourage clients to ask their employer about financial wellness and literacy programs. Some large companies have such programs built into their benefits packages so they may already be available to your client. But, if not, prompt your clients to ask if a program is or can be available to them through their workplace.

Approach companies to discuss their wellness programs. And, volunteer to run some classes
For some employers, a financial wellness program may seem too much of a burden or expense. This is where advisors can help. Offer to put together workshops for minimal expense to the company. If your clients’ employers do not have a program, have your client set up a meeting with you. You can explain how you will offer educational workshops, at minimal inconvenience and cost to them.

Run female-focused financial literacy classes in your office
If a client finds their employer to be unreceptive, suggest that you run a workshop — or a series of workshops — at your office. Your client could invite people from their office and community. The advantage is that you control the environment and attendee list, so you can provide the optimal experience for your target audience.

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If we can help educate women about the gender savings gap and improve financial literacy, we will have performed a great service.

Volunteer with literacy programs for women and girls
There are financial literacy programs specifically for women who need volunteers. FLOW (Financial Literacy Organization for Women and Girls) is one of many such organizations. Advisors can volunteer with these programs and not have to put together material or run seminars by themselves. It’s a great solution for those advisors who want to give back but are cautious of doing it themselves.

This topic is not one to be taken lightly. Women earn less than men at the same career stage, and it’s having knock-on effects into retirement readiness. It’s not a problem that will go away by itself, and as advisors, we can’t change companies' pay structures. However, if we can help educate women about the gender savings gap and improve financial literacy, we will have performed a great service.

Dave Grant

Dave Grant

Dave Grant, a Financial Planning columnist, is founder of Retirement Matters, a planning firm, in Cary, Illinois. He is also the founder of NAPFA Genesis, a networking group for young fee-only planners.