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Nearly 40% of women over 35 regret not investing for retirement sooner

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Younger women are getting into investing earlier than ever, while older women are trying to play catch-up.

That's according to Fidelity's 2022 Money Moves study, in which 36% of older women — defined in the survey as women 36 and older — said that their biggest financial mistake was "waiting too long to start saving for retirement."

Fidelity surveyed 2,015 American adults 18 and older who have investment accounts. The results were then divided up between respondents 18 to 35 and those 36 and older.

Older women didn't begin investing in a brokerage account until they were at least 30, on average, Fidelity found, while younger women started investing at 21 on average. When it comes to retirement accounts, the gap was even larger. Younger women reported opening a retirement account at 20, while older women did at 34.

"What I take away from this is that younger women are listening to the generations before them," Lorna Kapusta, head of women investors at Fidelity, tells CNBC Make It. She added that the "pandemic really acted as a catalyst for women to take stock and figure out what's important."

This process included planning out investments, exploring information resources and taking concrete steps to begin investing. Half of the younger women surveyed said they started investing in the past six months or plan to begin in the next six months.

"We're seeing women overall — but especially young women — really begin to take advantage of a lot of the new education resources and community that are available to help them learn and feel more comfortable with the decisions that they're making around their planning and investing," Kapusta says.

She described the findings as positive and said young women will be able to enjoy the benefits of compound interest, something that legendary investor Warren Buffett once called an investor's best friend.

"Having that strong financial foundation and making your money work harder for you and on its own are really important for everybody," Kapusta says.

If you are looking to invest for the first time, one good place to start is through an employer-sponsored 401(k). Experts typically recommend contributing at least enough to take advantage of any employer match you are eligible for.

If your company doesn't offer a 401(k), consider opening a traditional IRA, Roth IRA or a taxable brokerage account. If you're self-employed, you can enroll in a SEP IRA or a solo 401(k) plan.

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