The 2012 "Women: Let's Talk About Retirement 12th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey" found that out of more than 1,800 women workers, 53% expect to self-fund their retirement through 401(k)s, 403(b)s, IRAs or outside savings and investments. Thirty-one percent expect to rely on Social Security. However, a huge disparity exists between younger and older women. Sixty percent of women in their 60s expect to rely on Social Security, while 77% of women in their 20s expect to self-fund. Most women are aware that they are not building a large enough nest egg. Only 8% strongly agree that they are building a large enough retirement nest egg compared to 33% who strongly disagree.
Women are as statistically likely as men to report they have been offered (44% vs. 51%) and contribute to (36 % vs. 41%) a workplace retirement savings plan according to the 2012 "Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS)."

However, 60% of women are more likely than 52% of men to indicate they have not tried to calculate how much they will need to have saved by the time they retire. This is a scary prospect, but luckily there are many retirement calculators available to help women take the first step to proper retirement planning. The key is to know how much you'll need. The RCS reports that women are more likely to say they do not know how much they will need to save (12% vs. 7%). Since women tend to face higher healthcare expenses in retirement due to living longer than men, women need to pay close attention to planning for their retirement.

Lack of Confidence
One of the main obstacles for women in planning effectively for their retirement is lack of confidence. The Transamerica survey concluded that among women of all ages, only 8% of women are "very confident" that they will be able to fully retire with a comfortable lifestyle while 21% are 'not at all confident' and only 11% of women in their 20s are 'very confident.'" This last statistic is frightening because that the earlier a woman saves for her retirement the better prepared she will be and the easier it is to build up a solid nest egg.

Knowledge of Retirement Preparation
The key to preparing effectively for your "golden years" is knowledge. Of the women who expect to rely on Social Security when they retire, only 14% have "a great deal" of understanding; nearly the same number of women, 12%, indicated they have no understanding, 10% of all women have "a great deal" of understanding regarding Social Security benefits and 78% of women said they did not know much about retirement investing according to the Transamerica data.

Ways to Prepare
Jean Chatzky, financial editor of the "Today Show" and author of "Money Rules," says that when planning for retirement, the best way is to build up your savings. "Save 10% of your annual salary for retirement expenses, this includes contributions to your 401k. If you start later on, increase your savings. Do 15% if you are in your 40s, 20% if in your 50s," she adds.

Another thing to look into when planning is the Saver's Credit. This is a valuable tax credit which is available to individuals who meet certain income requirements for making contributions to an IRA or a company-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k) or 403(b) plan. If you make eligible contributions to a qualified IRA, 401(k) and certain other retirement plans, you may be able to take a credit of up to $1,000 ($2,000 if filing jointly). A benefit to this credit is that it is a percentage of the qualifying contribution amount, with the highest rate for taxpayers with the least income. Also, look into catch-up contributions. People age 50 and older may be allowed to make contributions to their 401(k)/403(b)/457(b) plan or IRA in order to speed up their retirement savings if they are currently a bit behind.

The Bottom Line
Take a few key proactive steps to building your retirement savings now. Calculate how much you will need using a retirement calculator. Write down your retirement strategy, include where your income will come from when you decide to retire. Will it be from Social Security benefits? Employer sponsored 401ks? Roths? Envision your retirement life and what you will be doing. Plan your goals to coincide with this vision and work towards saving for it. Ask yourself how much you think your living and healthcare expenses will be. Do you have children you want to leave an inheritance to? These are all factors to consider when retirement planning.

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