​Why it's harder for women to save for retirement

NEW YORK -- When Vadaire James was in her early 20s, her mom sat her down to have "the talk," not about sex, but about saving for retirement. James says she didn't listen to her mother's advice.

Now 40, James wishes she had. After working a variety of jobs, she has a lot of experience but little savings.

Vadaire James CBS News

"It is terrifying now," said James. "It's imagining 20 years down the road, where am I going to be and what I'm going to be doing?"

A recent survey found that only about half of women have put money aside to retire, compared to 65 percent of men. And while the average savings for women is $35,000, for men it's more than twice that.

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"A lot of people think well I'll just work longer and I think that's great but it's not a plan really because you don't know what the future will bring and maybe you won't work as long as you expect," said Cindy Hounsell, the president of Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement.

Hounsell says it's never too late to start planning ahead.

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"You just have to get into the habit of saving because there will never be the perfect, blue-sky day, when today's the day, I can start saving. That never comes along," said Hounsell.

James started focusing on her future last year, even taking a roommate to save on expenses.

Survey: Americans' worst retirement fears

"You have to take more control of your earnings and what's coming in and how you spend it," said James. "I wish I had figured that out a lot earlier and I didn't."

Women also tend to be more conservative savers. More than 68 percent keep their money in cash, which means that savings doesn't grow or earn dividends.

  • Anthony Mason
    Anthony Mason

    CBS News senior business and economics correspondent; Co-host, "CBS This Morning: Saturday"