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Department of Employee Trust Funds
November 6, 2017

Study: ETF Campaign Closes Retirement Savings
Gender Gap

ETF’s financial education campaign targeting women has been proven to increase participation in retirement savings programs by 2.6 percentage points, closing the gender gap by more than half, according to research published by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. In Can Knowledge Empower Women to Save More for Retirement, researchers reported the effects of ETF’s financial education campaign, EMPOWER, on participation among female public employees in the Wisconsin Deferred Compensation Program, a supplemental retirement savings program available to state employees and employees of participating local government employers.

Women are almost twice as likely as men to live below the poverty line in retirement. Even though women live longer and face higher costs in retirement, they save less for retirement than men. ETF’s EMPOWER campaign was designed to encourage women of all cultures to take charge of their retirement financial planning and security.

Researchers found that:

  • Differences between men and women in financial knowledge and motivation contribute to gender gaps in retirement savings; and 
  • Financial knowledge and motivation can be augmented by multimedia financial education.

The policy implications of the findings are significant:

  • Employers can and should use financial education programs to help employees increase their savings.
  • The main channel appears to be motivation of new participation in savings through repeated communication of key facts via multiple media and peer interaction.

The EMPOWER campaign was launched in May 2015 by ETF, the Wisconsin Deferred Compensation Program (WDC) and state agency Affirmative Action Committees. The campaign’s statewide grassroots efforts targeted women and provided multifaceted educational programming for public employees. EMPOWER has been recognized for its unique approach to improving women’s financial literacy and retirement security. It received the 2015 Governor’s Financial Literacy Award from the Wisconsin Governor’s Council on Financial Literacy; the Wisconsin State Council on Affirmative Action 2015 Diversity Award; the 2015 Innovator Award by Pensions & Investments Magazine; and a 2016 Lloyd D. Gladfelter Award for Government Innovation.

supporting excellence in Wisconsin public service