The Role of Retirement Personality Type in Motivating Women to Plan for Retirement

Jean M. Lown
Professor of Family, Consumer, and Human Development
Utah State University

September 2008 | Issue # 93

This two phase study examined how to motivate women to save for retirement. The quantitative first phase validated findings regarding the existence of distinct personality types among women regarding retirement saving. In the second phase, focus groups were conducted with the five retirement personality types to identify messages that might motivate them to invest for retirement. Focus groups revealed more similarities than differences across personality types; there may actually be greater differences between married and single women. Women share similar obstacles that interfere with retirement planning, primarily, a lack of time, a lack of interest in finances, lack of knowledge, and fear of making poor choices and losing money. Women identified the time and costs of raising children as impediments to retirement planning, and they believe they will have time to start retirement planning once their children leave home. Uncertainty as to where to invest and who to trust seems widespread. Attending a financial seminar with men can be intimidating. Women prefer to learn from and work with female financial advisors.

These focus group participants identified two distinct types of motivators: positive and negative. Among the positive motivators, participants suggested that supportive friends are important. Negative motivators include divorce, death of a spouse, health problems, or observing friends or relatives who are struggling financially in retirement. Unfortunately, negative events are typically unexpected and can create a plethora of financial problems.

Different messages are needed to appeal to Planners/Savers when compared to Strugglers, Impulsives and Deniers. The messages to Planners/Savers might be: you are capable; you can do it with a little help. The other three RPTs might respond to a combination of messages: Put your trust in us; we can help you reach your goals, and you don’t need a lot of money to get started. Successful social marketing messages need to address and overcome fears, anxiety, and avoidance among Strugglers, Impulsives, and Deniers.

© 2013 and prior years, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association - College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF), New York, NY 10017