Retirement & Financial Planning Report

In focus groups involving some 190 older women that GAO convened for a report on financial challenges facing them, a common theme was that “they wished they had made better financial decisions when they were younger” including saving and investing more, GAO has said.

Some participants “said they practiced poor financial habits when they were younger or had regrets about their financial decisions, such as overspending, accumulating debt, making poor investment decisions, and not saving for retirement earlier in life,” it said.

GAO also asked participants to fill out a written survey asking them “to provide advice for younger women about how to prepare financially for retirement.” Of the 163 who responded to that question, 91 mentioned saving more, 51 mentioned investing more, 42 mentioned seeking out financial education or financial advice, and 36 mentioned living frugally or staying out of debt.

Of the 90 women who reported that they owned financial investments that had been invested for over 20 years, only seven reported feeling not very financially secure, it added.

“We asked women if there was something they did not understand about finances when they were younger that they wish they had known. In response, some women said they faced challenges understanding how investments worked or how important employer matching policies and compound interest were to building wealth,” it said.

However, those who had sought professional advice in making investment decisions reported only “mixed” results, with about half calling it a positive experience but the rest reporting negative experiences including “receiving poor advice, paying high fees, or becoming a victim of fraud.”

Said GAO, “Women in all 14 focus groups said their lack of personal finance education negatively affected their ability to plan for retirement. Many shared ideas about personal finance education including the view that it should be incorporated into school curriculum starting in kindergarten and continuing through college, and should be available through all phases of life.”

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