Work or Retire Among women whointend to keep working, 85 percent cite financial reasons, butthey're also concerned about health issues. (Photo:Shutterstock)

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More than half of women plan to keep working in retirement, ornot retire at all, and a lot of the motivation is thanks to thefinancial challenges they face.

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According to findings from the 18th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey,only 12 percent of women in the workforce are “very confident” thatthey will be able to retire to a comfortable lifestyle—and 53percent say they'll keep working or not retire at all.

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Among those who intend to keep working, 85 percent citefinancial-related reasons for doing so. But they're also concernedabout health issues, with 71 percent also citing healthy-agingreasons (staying active, keeping their brains alert, having a senseof purpose, etc.) as reasons to continue working.

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Related: Older women workers face tougheconomics

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Not that they don't dream about what retirement could look like,with 71 percent envisioning a future of travel, 61 percent spendingmore time with family and friends and 48 percent devotingthemselves to hobbies they may not have time for while working. Inaddition, a substantial 28 percent are looking forward to aretirement filled with volunteer work, while 25 percent still focuson doing some kind of paid work; among the paying opportunitiesthey envision are an encore career (11 percent), starting abusiness (9 percent) and continuing in their current field (9percent).

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Women are also preoccupied by financial and health fears, with55 percent afraid they'll outlive their savings and investments, 53percent fearing that Social Security will be cut or eliminatedaltogether, 48 percent afraid they won't be able to meet theirfamilies' basic financial needs, 47 percent dreading ending up inlong-term care and 42 percent fearing lack of access to adequateand affordable healthcare.

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And while they are saving for retirement, short-term needs takepriority, with 68 percent focused on paying off debt; credit carddebt is the bugaboo of 46 percent, while 30 percent are paying on amortgage, 18 percent student loans, and 16 percent shelling out forother consumer debt.

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And while 51 percent say retirement saving is a priority, 58percent say that building savings—not for retirement—is one oftheir top-of-list items. Scarily enough, 41 percent say theirpriority is “just getting by to cover basic living expenses.”

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Among the 73 percent of women who are saving for retirement, inan employer plan and/or outside work, the median contribution is 7percent of their pay—with median household retirement savings apaltry $42,000.

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And they don't have emergency savings. The median emergencysavings accounts held by women only have $2,000 in them against acar or home repair, loss of a job or a medical emergency. More thana quarter—27 percent—have less than $1,000 in that emergencyaccount, and 26 percent don't know how much they've saved.

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.