By Megan Leonhardt
August 4, 2016

The wage gap exists, even among millennials, and it’s spilling over into women’s ability to save for retirement.

In recent years, it seemed the gender wage gap, at least among younger employees, was on the decline. In 2014 the Pew Research Center found millennial women made 93% of what their male counterparts took home.

But a new Wells Fargo survey of over 1,000 millennials ages 22 to 35 finds a majority of women (61%) say their finances are stretched too thin to save for retirement. In fact, about 44% of women say they are not currently saving for retirement at all. Meanwhile, only half of millennial men report struggling to balance paying the bills and saving for retirement. [Separately, millennials have a good shot at amassing a $1 million nest egg, even though most respondents to the Wells Fargo survey thought that goal was out of reach.]

Source: 2016 Wells Fargo Millennial Study; Illustration by Julia Bohan
Source: 2016 Wells Fargo Millennial Study; Illustration by Julia Bohan

Much of that difference appears to be due to differences in pay. “There’s a direct correlation to wages and the ability to save for retirement,” Joe Ready, director of Institutional Retirement and Trust for Wells Fargo, said Wednesday during a press briefing.

The wage gap is alive and well among the survey respondents. On average, these millennial women earn about 74% of what the men do, about $10,000 less than the $39,100 median personal income among reported among guys. The window narrows slightly among younger millennials. Among respondents ages 22 to 27, the men earn a median $25,500 vs.$24,200 for the women.

Yet the pay gap is likely to widen again as these women age and experience career interruptions as they care for their families. One in five women say they took at least a 20% pay cut after taking a career break, according to a 2015 survey by Ellevate, a professional network for women. Another 20% reported they had not been able to find a job at the time of the survey.

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For millennials who are saving, there’s a 22% difference in savings levels, the Wells Fargo survey found. Millennial men report saving 7.3% of their income for retirement, compared to the 5.7% savings level among women.

Ready recommends that younger women focus on saving now. If women wait, they may lose out on hundreds of thousands in savings by the time they retire. “Wherever you’re at on the income spectrum, it’s important to take a step back and just try to take that personal financial inventory,” he says.

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