By Kelly O'Donnell Capitol Hill Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/18/2005 7:43:07 PM ET 2005-03-19T00:43:07

Happily retired, Barbara Reeb says she's found her footing — at tap dance class, and financially. Now 62, the divorced mother of three recognized just how out of step she had been when it came to her own money.

"I really had no clue how to manage things," says Reeb.

Experts say women often do not make retirement planning a priority.

"We think more about staying younger than getting older," says M. Cindy Hounsell of the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement.

Yet women typically need even more savings than men. Women live seven years longer on average.

"That means that's 20 years in retirement that she has to live off her own income," says financial planner Candace Bahr with the Women's Institute for Financial Education.

But women usually earn less, so their pensions are smaller. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, in 2001 (the most recent figures available) a 65-year-old man received $14,046 in retirement, while a retired woman earned just $8,224.

Experts say where women work makes a difference, too. Manufacturing jobs are the most likely to offer retirement benefits, but you'll find more men there — fewer than 20 percent of working women are in manufacturing.

Another huge factor: Women take more time out of the workforce to care for children, which can mean a lot less in pension and 401(k) savings.

"Ninety percent of women will be managing their own finances for a good part of their adult life," says accountant Ginita Wall.

Barbara Reeb first looked for guidance when her 35-year marriage ended. Financial planner Bahr and accountant Wall helped her, and say more women need to take action before divorce or widowhood.

"Since I took over the job, I feel empowered and a lot more self-confident," says Reeb.

Fewer than seven out of 10 working women say they save for retirement. So Reeb is already ahead and watching her new effort — like her garden — bloom.

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