Try describing the financial gap between men and women, and 78 cents probably comes to mind. That's what a woman earns for every dollar a man brings home, and it is publicly noted every year on Equal Pay Day.
But the gender pay gap pales in comparison to a growing challenge for women: the retirement gender gap.
Women's median IRA account balances are 71 percent as big as men's and their median defined contribution savings just 66 percent. That savings disparity is just one reason for the yawning financial gap leaving millions of older women in poverty: Nearly 2.9 million women lived in poverty in 2013, more than twice the number of men, according to the National Women's Law Center.
Certainly, poverty among the elderly is a problem for both men and women. But while the poverty rate for men age 65 and over is 7.4 percent, for women it is 64 percent higher, at 12.1 percent. In addition, 45 percent of women age 75 and over live alone, without the financial cushion a partner can provide. And as the population ages, the number of women at financial risk will rise.
Not surprisingly, 57 percent of women in a recent survey said the thought of running out of money in retirement keeps them awake at night — their biggest fear other than losing a spouse.
"America's population is aging overall, and to the extent that we have people who do not have the means to live comfortably in retirement, especially as the period of retirement is lengthening, it does suggest that something needs to change in our planning for the future," said Lori Trawinski, director of banking and finance for the financial security team at the AARP Public Policy Institute.