Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
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Articles by Hardy, M. A.
Articles by Shuey, K.
The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 55:S271-S277 (2000)
© 2000 The Gerontological Society of America


Pension Decisions in a Changing Economy

Gender, Structure, and Choice

Melissa A. Hardya and Kim Shueya

a Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy and Department of Sociology, Florida State University, Tallahassee

Melissa A. Hardy, Director, Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1121 E-mail: [email protected].

Objectives. As responsibility for financial security in retirement becomes more individualized, understanding the distribution and determinants of savings behavior grows in importance. Employed men and women often gain access to their pension assets when they change jobs. In this study gender differences in pre-retirement access to and disposition of accumulated pension assets are examined.

Methods. The authors used data from the Health and Retirement Study to model pension participation, disposition of pension assets, and use of cash settlements derived from a pension plan in a previous job. Logit models provided estimates of gender differences in access to pensions and the preservation of pension funds for retirement.

Results. Women were less likely to have participated in employer-sponsored pension plans; more likely to cash out accumulated pension assets when they changed jobs; and, when job changes occurred at relatively young ages, equally likely to spend the settlement. However, by their late 40s, women were more likely to save the settlement, a net gender difference that increased with age at which the settlement was received.

Discussion. The structure of employment compensation continues to place women at a disadvantage. Gender differences in earnings and fringe benefits not only affect current financial status, but also cast a shadow over future financial security. Although the gender gap in pension coverage has been reduced, women with pensions have access to lower benefits and less in accumulated assets. As these continuing deficits are addressed, enhancing women's tendency to save pension assets for retirement can help them build financial security.

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