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Planning for Retirement: Women in Two-Income Households and Retirement Risk

Jun 11, 2019

Key Takeaways

  • Two isn’t always better than one, even when you have double the household income.
  • Many two-income households are not saving enough to cover both spouses in retirement.
  • A woman’s marital status may play a role in how well-prepared she is for retirement.


Married women in two-income households – more so than single women or married women in one-income households – are at the greatest risk of not being able to maintain their standard of living in retirement, according to the latest research from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (CRR).

Despite the fact that they have two incomes, 46% of women in two-income households are at risk of being unable to maintain their standard of living in retirement, vs. 32% of married women in one-income households and 39% of all single women, the CRR’s National Retirement Risk Index (NRRI) found.


Percentage of Women Ages 50-59 At Risk of Being Unable to Maintain their Pre-Retiree Standard of Living in Retirement

Percentage of Women Ages 50-59 Able to Maintain their Pre-Retiree Standard of Living
Marital Status Percentage
Never Married 39.8%
Divorced 39.5%
Widowed 34.7%
Married, one income 32.2%
Married, two income 46.3%


This counterintuitive finding is due largely to three factors, according to the CRR:

  • The progressive design of Social Security benefits
  • Inadequate saving in workplace retirement plans
  • Adverse impacts from divorce

Women of every marital status face significant challenges in achieving financial security in retirement. As Prudential’s previous report, Closing the Retirement Income Gender Gap, notes, women on average earn about 20% less than men, receive less in Social Security benefits, and save 32% less in retirement savings. Women also are more likely to have inconsistent work histories due to caregiving responsibilities, which can make it harder for them to save for retirement.

So why is it that two incomes don’t necessarily translate into long-term financial security?

  1. They get used to living a two-income lifestyle.
  2. They pay more in Social Security taxes and receive lower Social Security benefits per tax dollar paid.
  3. And they save too little in workplace retirement plans.

It’s always been important for women to plan and save for retirement, but it’s even more true today, especially for women in two-income households. Fortunately, there are many steps women can take to put them further along the road to retirement security.

Prudential served as the exclusive sponsor of the National Retirement Risk Index.


Read More

To learn more, read Planning for Retirement - Women in Two-Income Households at Highest Risk .

Download the CRR Issue Brief  .

Read more about saving for retirement. Opens in new window

 You may also be interested in other National Retirement Risk Index topics.


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