Editors' pick: Originally published Oct. 6.

Saving for retirement is difficult for everyone, but retirement planning for women is especially complex. That's because women, for a variety of reasons, generally enter retirement with less money than men and then they face a number of particular problems.

According to employee benefits consultant Aon Hewitt, five of six women are not saving enough for retirement. And, even though women and men participate in employer-sponsored 401(k) retirement savings plans at the same rate, 83% of women are not saving enough to meet their needs in retirement compared to 74% of men.

And, data from the sixteenth annual Transamerica Retirement Survey paint a similar picture:

  • Retirement confidence is higher among men (64%) compared to women (54%)
  • Men (55%) are more likely than women (42%) to agree that they are building a large enough retirement nest egg.
  • Men (31%) most frequently say that their greatest financial priority is "saving for retirement," while women (25%) most frequently say "just getting by - covering basic living expenses."

"The magnitude of challenge is different," says Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. "Time in and out of the work force can really inhibit a woman in retirement. Generally, the pay gap is real."

Those two things alone compound the savings problems over years, she says, and increase the savings gap between men and women. "We know most Americans are having a hard time saving enough," she says.

"We face the challenges of less savings -- we live longer -- so we are more likely to outlive our spouses," she adds. "So intensive planning needs to take place. There is also the hangover from previous generations, where man ran household finances and women shied away from it. That has got to change. Women have got to take control and have strong command of household finances. I still hear stories of women who lost a spouse and didn't know their financial situation, and find surprises. Generally, they are unpleasant vs. good surprises."

Longevity is a serious issue for women, says David Fleisher, CEO of Firstrust Financial Resources in Philadelphia. 

"Statistically, women live longer, so there is a greater need for resources to manage longevity risk," says Fleisher. "And in certain circumstances, their spouse may have been managing many part of the household finances. It's critical that women are empowered with the knowledge of their family's financial circumstances."

"For some women re-entering the work force, they are playing catch up for Social Security benefits and building up a nest egg," he adds. "And a household's finances between spouses really is a partnership. There needs to be open and candid communications between spouses. And a good coach or talented financial advisor should help facility those important conversations."

Jennifer Landon, founder and president of Journal Financial Services in Ammon, Idaho, says woman have an entire different approach retirement.

"Men tend to be more excited about retirement, approaching it like it's an adventure," she says. "Women more trepidatious and have more anxiety. I learned to never underestimate those feelings of anxiety."

"Another thing is a lot of women have taken time out from career to raise family," she adds. "It's not always, but sometimes, and as a result they don't have resources."

And even women's approach to retirement tends to be a lot more cautious, says Landon.

"It's scarier," she says. "They just want to make sure they have a good handle on how it will play out. I don't think they see it as same kind of adventure that men do. They want to make sure the i's are dotted and t's are crossed, not only on financial and add value to community and family."

Collinson says there are things women can do to improve their outlook in retirement.

  • The earlier you start saving the better. "Getting in the habit of saving consistently over time is the hardest part, making wise decisions about your budget and daily expenditures. Hopefully you can save."
  • If a woman is looking at taking time out of workforce as a mom or to take care of an aging parent, one potential solution is, don't drop out of the workforce completely. That makes it harder to get back in. Consider working part-time. "It's easier to ramp up to full-time work if you are already working. It's easier to find a job if you have a job."
  • Get educated about saving and investing for retirement. There are vast resources available online. And take advantage of employer retirement plan provider. 

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