Retirement Insights, LLC conducted a nationwide study to gather women’s experiences and perspectives regarding saving and investing within, and independent of, employer benefits programs. The email survey included a national sample of 500 female retirement plan participants ranging in age from 25 to 65. The survey was completed in September 2020.


ADP Retirement Services commissioned Retirement Insights, LLC to conduct a study to gain insight into women’s perspectives about saving and investing for retirement.


Women make up half of America’s workforce today, with life expectancies that may reach well beyond age 80. How well are they preparing for their senior years, and are they getting the most out of their workplace retirement benefits to help them achieve their retirement goals? ADP Retirement Services commissioned a study to find out.

Learnings include:

  • Nearly half save six percent or less in their retirement plan.
  • Few get retirement planning assistance from a financial professional.
  • Many seek investing and financial management education and services in their 401(k) plans to help them improve their retirement saving.

Saving and investing

Women may not be saving enough for their future needs. Most often (40%), women contribute between three percent and six percent annually to their retirement plan, and eight percent put less than three percent into their account. Most women view their financial ability as “Good” (43%) or “Fair” (31%), and more than a third rely on their own, self-taught investing skills (36%). Women under age 40 scored their investing ability as “Excellent” more often than women in other age groups, and those under 50 are more likely to rely on their own investing knowledge. Only about 1 in 4 have ever hired an investment professional, and another 18 percent get their financial education from financial education sites. A partner (16%) or friend (4%) are less likely sources.

Few hire a financial professional

Of those surveyed who are not currently using the services of an investment professional, 72 percent of women have never paid an investment professional for guidance on investing for retirement. What’s holding them back? Most say they don’t think they can afford it (36%). Another 39 percent say they either never considered hiring a professional (22%) or are uncertain about how to select one (17%). One in four cite other reasons — 15 percent don’t think they need a financial assistance, while 10 percent don’t trust financial institutions. Pre-retirement age women age 50-plus are the least likely to work with a professional — 81 percent or more have not paid an investment professional for information or help.

Of women that have not hired an investment professional:

  • Those age 40 to 49 are most likely to believe it is unaffordable (53%)
  • Those age 20 to 29 have never considered hiring one (39%)
  • Those age 30 to 39 are most likely to say they don’t know how to choose one (26%)
  • Those age 65 and up are most likely to think they don’t require professional guidance (22%)

Why do women hire investment professionals?

For women who have chosen to seek the help of a professional, it is mainly because they seek better results (48%), lack the expertise (27%), or the time (10%). Just 15 percent work with an investment advisor because of an existing long-term relationship. Though women under age 40 are the most confident in their investing knowledge, they’re also the group most likely to work with a financial advisor seeking “better results.” Of the approximate 1 in 4 that work with a financial professional, the majority have continued the relationship for over 5 years (41%) or 3 to 5 years (28%). Twenty-five percent have used such services for 1 to 3 years, and 6 percent have worked with a pro for under a year.


36% – I can’t afford it
22% – I never considered it
17% – I don’t know how to choose an investment professional
15% – I don’t think I need it
10% – I don’t trust financial institutions

Women want in-plan enhancements related to investing — 27 percent suggest financial education to help in investment decision making and personalized investment advice to guide decisions (26%). Financial management information like assistance in developing a plan to save more (23%) and expense management (12%) were also identified. Post-retirement topics are also of interest for 7 percent.

Women face a number of obstacles to achieving their retirement goals. The survey data finds a significant number save at a rate under six percent and, despite interest in personalized investing and retirement planning assistance, few get professional financial help that could benefit their situation.

Creating greater awareness of the services and benefits of working with get on board with using services that can help them overcome their personal financial challenges and build future financial security.


27% – Financial education to  help with  investment decisions
26% – Personalized investment advice to guide decisions
23% – Detailed planning to  help increase savings


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About Retirement Insights, LLC

Since 1996, Retirement Insights, LLC has been assisting financial services companies to competitively position their products in the marketplace and achieve their goals. We offer powerful competitive intelligence tools, reporting and consulting services specialized in the retirement and financial industries. Our expertise lies in connecting our innovative research and information with insights that help our clients make better decisions and bring practical, actionable solutions into view.

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