Women and men are well-known to approach finances in strikingly different ways, from how they spend to how they save. Unfortunately, when it comes to preparing for retirement, many women are jeopardizing their financial future.

A dizzying number of recent studies show that American women lag far behind men when it comes to amassing retirement savings. The 2016 Transamerica Retirement Survey found that men’s household retirement savings are three times higher than that of women. A MassMutual survey reports that 44 percent of women interviewed said they can’t afford to save for retirement, compared to 14 percent of the men. And the National Retirement Institute reports that women are 80 percent more likely to be impoverished upon retirement age.  Yikes. What gives?

“The plain and simple truth is women face a unique set of problems going into retirement,” says Pamela Yellen, financial advice expert and founder of Bank On Yourself. “Women generally earn less than men and typically take time out of their careers for caregiving. They also need a bigger nest egg for retirement because they tend to live longer than men and are more likely to end up alone in old age.”

Depressing? A bit. But take heart: Women can reverse this trend. Here are five ways women can become more proactive about creating a healthy retirement stash.

1. Start immediately

Saving for retirement early is key to having a hefty stockpile in your golden years. If you begin saving in your 20s, your money has a good 40 years for compound interest to work its magic. It’s especially important for women to start generating compound interest early because it can help mitigate any reduction in retirement contributions that may occur if they later leave the workforce. But, in fact, women tend to start saving for retirement later than men.

“Open an IRA (Individual Retirement Account), contribute to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, or both as soon as possible,” says financial wellness coach Marques Lang, founder of Prosperity Consulting & Coaching. Arrange to have a sum, even a small one, directly deposited from each paycheck to your retirement account, so you won’t miss a contribution opportunity and your savings can flourish.

If your 20s are already a distant memory, start playing catch-up right away. You can make contributions to a Traditional IRA until age 70-1/2. If possible, max out your allowable contribution of $5,500 ($6,500 if you’re over 50) every year.

Read the rest of Barbara Diggs’ article at http://theweek.com/articles/730209/how-women-better-prepare-retirement