Married women in two-income households are at the greatest risk of not being able to maintain their standard of living after retirement.

That’s the finding of new research conducted by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College and published by Prudential Financial in a report titled Closing the Retirement Income Gender Gap.

Despite having two sources of income, almost half of women in two-income households are at risk of having a lower standard of living in retirement, vs. 32% of married women in one-income households and 39% of all single women, the CRR’s National Retirement Risk Index (NRRI) found.

So why do women in marriages with two-incomes pose the highest risk of financial insecurity.

First, they’re used to living a two-income lifestyle so they spend more, in general — for example, having a larger house and two cars.

“Two-income households typically make more, but save less”
CIndy Hounsell
Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER)

“Two-income households typically make more, but save less,” Cindy Hounsell, president of the Washington D.C.-based Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) nonprofit and a Next Avenue Influencer In Aging told Forbes. “They’re having a nicer life while it is going, rather than saving for retirement. There’s a bit of denial when it comes to retirement planning.”

Second, two-income households receive lower Social Security benefits per tax dollar paid than one-income households, and they pay more in Social Security taxes.

“The spousal benefit generally declines once the second spouse starts working, and disappears completely once the lower-earning spouse’s own benefit exceeds one-half the higher earner’s benefit,” Prudential explained.

And finally, only one spouse in a two-income household typically saves for retirement in a workplace savings plan, leaving them with too little saved for later in life.

CRR found that the average 401(k) savings rate for one-income households and two-income, two-saver households is typically around 8% to 9% of household earnings. But, the average savings rate for two-income, one-saver households, which represent 42% of two-income households, is only 4.9% of household earnings. 

So what can women in a two-income household do to up their retirement savings?

Start by making sure both spouses are taking advantage of a workplace savings plan, and contributing enough to receive any employer benefit. Then, look into catch up contributions on your retirement accounts or a life insurance policy.