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Long Way to Go, Baby


"You've come a long way, baby," was the memorable slogan of the Virginia Slims ad campaign that kicked off in 1968.

Today, more than four decades later, women, particularly women investors, still have a long, long way to go.

Not only do women have poorer perceptions than men of what they need to do to prepare for retirement, the fact that they still earn far less continues to handicap their ability to retire with a decent sum.

A new study conducted by Harris Interactive found that men are three times as likely as women to earn six figures and nearly twice as likely to earn $50,000 or more. Ten percent of men earn $100,000 or more, versus 3% of women, and 45% of men earn $50,000 or more, versus 24% of women. On the other end of the pay scale, 40% of women make $35,000 or less, compared to 24% of men.

Instead of women's salaries rising, evidence shows that they are decreasing; 38% of female workers said they feel they are paid less than male counterparts with the same skills and experience, up from 34% in 2008 and 31% in 2003. And 29% of female workers feel that men have more career advancement opportunities, up form 26% in 2009.

Given that women continue to earn far less than men, they certainly should be more proactive and better educated about saving for retirement-but, clearly, they are not. While a number of asset management firms have developed programs to educate women about retirement and financial planning-including John Hancock, Wachovia, OppenheimerFunds and MetLife-it is sadly obvious that more should join their ranks.

Thirty-five percent of women think they can get by on less than $250,000 in retirement savings, compared to 26% of men, according to the "2011 Retirement Confidence Survey" by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mathew Greenwald & Associates. Women are also more likely to say they do not know how much they will need to save (12% versus 5%).

And while confidence figures are abysmal for both men and women, they are significantly higher for men, with 17% saying they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement, compared to 10% of women. Asset firms could do a better job of motivating both sexes to prepare for retirement.

Clearly, women need far more assistance than men.