Women’s Retirement at Risk

This week at FinCon18 we’re showcasing the many programs and efforts that we have to help Americans plan for – and ideally achieve – a secure retirement. AARP’s Financial Ambassador, Jean Chatzky, is even delivering a powerful keynote at the conference on big themes in personal finance over the next decade. With that in mind, I got to thinking about big themes for women in particular.

The ever-changing role of American women has been front and center the past few years. You can see that just by looking at the historic numbers of women running for office this year and the record-breaking number of women-owned businesses.

But you know what isn’t changing? The fact that women are more likely to face poverty than men during retirement, especially black women and Latinas.

Women face an uphill battle when it comes to their future financial security. On average, women live longer than men, so their retirement savings need to stretch farther into the future. On top of that, their wages tend to be lower, making it more challenging to save and their future Social Security benefits even smaller. What’s more, many take time out of the workforce (or turn to alternative work plans like part-time or contracting) to provide care for children, elderly parents and other loved ones. All of these factors make it even harder for women to grow the savings they need for a bright and secure future.

While Social Security is a critical piece of the puzzle, it is not enough to depend on.  Yet, so many women age 65+ rely on Social Security for nearly all of their family income:

  • Nearly 1 out of 4 women ages 65+;
  • Almost 4 out of 10 older black women (a rate that is 45 percent higher than that of White women); and
  • Nearly 1 in 3 older Latinas.

We need to start digging in and changing this trend now! We can start by removing one of the biggest obstacles that prevent women of all ages from growing the savings they need to take control of their financial future – the lack of access to retirement savings plans. Millions of women work all their lives with few or no opportunities to participate in retirement savings plans through their jobs – in fact, nearly half of all female workers have no access to a workplace plan. Worse yet, more than two-thirds of black women and nearly three-fourths of Latinas do not participate in a savings plan.

The Work and Save programs passed by 10 states – and proposed by two dozen more – can help these women take control of their future by allowing them to grow the additional savings they’ll need to deal with the rising costs of basic needs and health care. The programs provide an easy pathway for women to save for retirement out of their regular paycheck, and they are in control of their own accounts. The employee gets to decide if they want to participate and how much they want to automatically put away from their paycheck. Importantly for women, the savings is their own money that moves with them wherever life may take them – and they can rely on it to take care of themselves in later years.

This type of forward-thinking is just what we need to help women breakthrough to build a more secure future for themselves and their families. And, it is yet another reason all of us here at AARP will continue to push for Work and Save programs all across the country!

To learn more about Work & Save programs, please visit: aarp.org/myfuture.

Would you like to volunteer with AARP? Visit  aarp.org/getinvolved .

To stay up to date on our work in your state, and nationwide, sign up for our e-alerts AARP Advocates e-newsletter, follow me on Twitter @roamthedomes, or visit your state Web page. 

Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.

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