Women business owners place more emphasis on ensuring the safety of their employees' retirement plans, according to a study sponsored by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co.

Massachusetts Mutual, which has 22,000 small-business customers, began offering a 401(k) product for small businesses in August. The company previously offered annuities to small businesses.

The study of 610 business owners, done by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners, found fewer women entrepreneurs offer retirement plans.

Nearly 50% of women entrepreneurs have retirement plans, compared to 55% of men. But a greater percentage of women business owners intend to offer retirement plans.

The study also found women business owners prefer to offer a wider variety of investment choices without requiring employees to make a minimum investment.

Mary Knight, Massachusetts Mutual assistant vice president for retirement services, said the insurance company plans to use the survey to develop a better training program to help insurance agents promote 401(k) plans.

Massachusetts Mutual's 401(k) plans for small business offer 30 mutual fund choices to businesses with as few as 10 employees. Banks and mutual fund companies offer similar plans.

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