Although women are just as optimistic as men about the stock market, women are much less confident about their investment decisions, according to a survey by MassMutual.

This lack of confidence may lead women to shortchange themselves in the long run by investing less in their retirement savings.

Elaine Sarsynski, an executive vice president in MassMutual's retirement services division and chairman and chief executive officer of MassMutual International LLC, said that women who participate in retirement savings plans save less than men.

“At MassMutual, the average savings rate for men is 5.76% and for women it's 5.35%,” she said. “Average account balances for women are about 63% of those of men. These statistics reflect the need to drive more women to save in defined contribution/401(k) plans and then help them allocate appropriately and with confidence.”

The problem is that women are far less confident than men. MassMutual's retirement services division, which conducted an online survey of more than 1,000 of its retirement plan participants between Nov. 15 and Jan. 15, revealed that while women and men were equally as optimistic relative to the market outlook, only 32.5% of women were confident in making their own investment decisions compared to 47.8% of men.

But Mike Alfred, chief executive at BrightScope, an independent provider of 401(k) ratings and financial intelligence to plan sponsors, advisors, and participants, said Wednesday that the confidence men show in investing is usually an over-confidence.

“Which is why a lot of studies say that women are really better investors than men because men are trying too hard to beat the market which as most people are now aware is a fools game,”he said.

At the same time, 61.5% of men enjoy managing their investments compared to 48.1% of women. Women prefer to spend as little time as possible on investment decisions compared to men, according to the survey.

Regardless of gender, Sarsynski said retirement is a concern for 37.3% of 401(k) participants, more than double the concern about healthcare costs (16.0%), job security (14.5%) and managing debt (12.2%):

“While almost nine times as many participants believe that they need to save more for retirement as don't (72.9% vs. 8.2%), women are more concerned that they won't have enough saved (70.3%) compared to men (63.2%),” she said.

Women also tend to prefer help from a financial advisor in making retirement planning decisions compared to men. While only 10.2% of surveyed participants currently work with a personal financial advisor, women are almost 25% more likely to already work with an advisor than men and are almost 20% more likely than men to seek help as a result of the recent economy.

Another difference between men and women, Alfred said, is that women are more willing to take good advice and won’t fight against the advice so much.

“Men usually go back and read three more things and want to talk them all out before their satisfied,” he said.

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