Women are not only saving less for retirement than men, but are also putting fewer dollars into their health savings accounts and health reimbursement arrangements as well, according to the most recent research by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

EBRI’s research found that men had a higher average account balance of $1,525 in their HSA or HRA in 2010, compared to women’s balance of $1,321. HSAs and HRAs are accounts that can be used to pay for medical expenses. EBRI reported men may have more money in their accounts because they use less health care than women. On average, men also earn more than women.

The research is based on the 2010 EBRI/MGA Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey conducted in the United States between August 8 and August 20, 2010 by a 14-minute Internet survey. Over 2,000 adults ages 21−64 who have health insurance through an employer or purchased directly from a carrier were randomly chosen from the sample.

The good news is that asset levels in these accounts are growing. In 2010, there was $7.7 billion in health savings accounts and health reimbursement arrangements across 5.7 million accounts, reported EBRI, up from 2006, when there were 1.2 million accounts with $835.4 million in assets, and 2009, when there were 5 million accounts that held $7.1 billion in assets. Average account balances leveled off in 2008 and 2009 and dropped slightly in 2010, but still remain higher than in 2006.

The report also found that even younger men, ages 21−34, have a higher account balance than women of the same age, with men in this age group carrying on average $1,441 in their accounts, while women carried $1,103.  Among the 35-44 year old age group, the gap between men and women is smaller: Men had an average account balance of $1,496, while for women it was $1,334. The difference in account balances between men and women disappears for those ages 55−64, reported EBRI.

Interestingly those who exercised, didn’t smoke and were not overweight had higher account balances and higher rollovers than those who were less healthy, said EBRI. The research also found that account balances increase with household income and education has a significant impact on account balances independent of income and other variables.




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