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Jan. 22, 2021, 2:39 p.m. EST

Women: It’s time to take control of your financial life

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Kerry Hannon

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And that loss of income today has enormous financial repercussions not just for now, but for future retirement.

 Lagging financial literacy

Now set that scenario against these findings that landed in my in-box this week — the Women’s Retirement Literacy Report from  The American College of Financial Services  — the nation’s largest non-profit, accredited educational institution devoted to financial services. 

The research report shows that neither men nor women score exceptionally well on this retirement literacy quiz. A whopping 89% of women received a failing grade on the 38-question retirement literacy quiz, compared with 72% of men.

On average, for example, women scored 42% on quiz questions related to retirement savings plans while men achieve an average score of 55%. Women are less likely to have conducted a calculation or estimate of their retirement savings needs and demonstrate a lower understanding of retirement savings plans, including 401(k)s and IRAs, compared with men.

That said, it comes at a time when the state of women’s financial planning efforts are under mounting strain as they face unequal financial consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the researchers.

And they’re right. More than ever, these times require that women have a grasp of their financial picture and all that entails.

Additional survey findings :

Sigh. If you’re curious about how your retirement know-how measures up, you can take the literacy quiz yourself. Click here .

As promised, here are ways to increase your financial knowledge and take control:

Pump up your money mojo. Many employers offer workplace discussions and planning tools; if yours does, sign up and attend these sessions.

Check out website personal finance educational offerings including the Women’s Institute For A Secure Retirement (WISER) website. You’ll also find investing education primers on most financial services websites such as Vanguard, T. Rowe Price and Fidelity.

Listen to the “Friends Talk Money ” podcast with hosts Terry Savage, Pam Krueger and Richard Eisenberg. Subscribe to insightful newsletters such as HumbleDollar and RetirementRevised.

Start a money book club with friends and colleagues to read up on investing and retirement planning. Two of my favorite books that you might consider: “From Here to Financial Happiness” by Jonathan Clements, the former Wall Street Journal personal finance columnist and current Humble Dollar blogger and Retirement Game Changers: Strategies for a Healthy, Financially Secure, and Fulfilling Long Life by Steve Vernon, an actuary, a retirement adviser, and a research scholar at the Stanford Center on Longevity.

Talk about money . Make money a regular topic of conversation with your spouse or partner in a constructive way, not when there is a crisis, or with your girlfriends. Begin by asking for their thoughts on a financial matter that you want to know more about, say where to earn more on your savings, the pros and cons of refinancing a mortgage. Discuss articles you’ve read. Suggest financial writers to follow on Twitter or Like on Facebook. Then, you can chat about what you’ve picked up from their postings.

The gist of all this: The knowledge that’s between your ears is the one thing that can’t be taken away from you. That was my Irish-born grandmother Ellen Nolan Hannon’s mantra. And I stand by it.

Kerry Hannon  is a leading expert and strategist on work and jobs, entrepreneurship, personal finance and retirement. Kerry is the author of more than a dozen books, including  Great Pajama Jobs: Your Complete Guide to Working From Home Never Too Old To Get Rich: The Entrepreneurs Guide To Starting a Business Mid-Life Great Jobs for Everyone 50+ , and  Money Confidence . Her on Twitter  @kerryhannon

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