When Washington Post columnist Jonnelle Marte wrote about Employee Research Institute data that indicated that women save less for retirement than men, she got unexpected feedback. Marte was of the opinion that women make less than men and this is why they contribute less to their retirement funds. Some readers, however, responded with their own reason: they felt women had less for retirement because of what they spend on shoes, clothing, and grooming.
Marte responded to this notion in, “No, shoes are not the reason why women are saving less for retirement.” She consulted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and found that while it is true that single women spend more on “personal care and services, a category that includes haircuts,” single men spend more on alcohol than single women. Plus, the BLS found that single women spent an average of $17 more on shoes per year than single men—not a huge difference.
We all have areas where we could cut back on spending. Marte concludes that we really cannot correlate a woman’s lack of retirement savings with the pairs of shoes in her closet:
“The savings gap likely has a lot less to do with women’s shopping habits and a lot more to do with the fact that women still earn 77 cents for every dollar that men earn.”
While the writer pondered readers’ responses to her original article, she remembered an episode of Sex and the City where a character couldn’t buy her New York City apartment because her money had been spent on expensive shoes. No doubt that character could have made better choices. However, there are many instances where women spend reasonable amounts of money on personal care and clothing to meet their personal and professional standards but their overall financial outlook is still affected by their earning potential.