BOSTON (TheStreet) -- A majority of U.S. women may be ill-prepared for retirement, lacking the financial know-how needed for a secure future.

That is the warning in a survey released Tuesday by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, a nonprofit corporation and private foundation partly funded by contributions from Transamerica Life Insurance.

The survey of nearly 1,800 American women workers found that half of respondents say they are not confident in their ability to retire comfortably. Adding to the sense of urgency are statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau that nearly one in five women over 65 who live alone also live in poverty.

According to the data -- compiled in the report Helping Women Become Golden Girls -- only 6% of respondents said they are "very confident" in their ability to fully retire with a comfortable lifestyle.

A "lack of knowledge of savings and investing fundamentals" is cited in the report as underscoring the need for improved guidance and education.

Fifty-four percent of survey participants said they don't have a retirement strategy; when asked how they arrived at their estimated needs in retirement, nearly 60% of women said they "had guessed."

Three-quarters of respondents said they "do not know as much as they should about retirement investing." Only 3% of women said they fully understand asset allocation. Nearly 82% were unsure or don't know of any fees that may be charged to their employer-sponsored retirement plan.

More than eight out of 10 women were unaware of the government "Saver's Credit" available to low- to middle-income workers saving for retirement. Fifty-seven percent were unaware that being over 50 allows them to make catch-up contributions to a retirement plan.

"The findings are, in many cases, alarming," says Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. "Unfortunately, this trend will likely continue unless women make some profound changes and take charge of their own financial futures. Clearly one of the most important success factors for empowering women to take charge of their financial futures is through education."

More than half of respondents said they want more information and advice from their company. Forty-four percent cited the need for educational materials that are easier to understand.

In addition to a better comprehension of retirement strategy, women face other challenges,. There is still a wage gap, in which women earn less than men, Collinson says. Women are also more likely to be single parents and, with longer life expectancies, have greater savings needs

--Written by Joe Mont in Boston.

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