Sunday, May 11, 2008

Elderly Women in the USA are Disproportionately Poor

Part of appreciating our mothers and grandmothers on Mother's Day is recognizing the challenges that face them, and making sure that they don't have to face those challenges alone. So after the flowers have been sent and the cake has been eaten (you did get your mom cake, didn't you?), here are some facts to consider, brought to us by RetirementRevisited:
The largest segment of Americans living in poverty is elderly women...

More than 25 percent of all African-American women live in poverty, and 28 percent of older Hispanic women are poor. And single women over 65 (all races) experience a 19 percent poverty rate.
That's right, nearly twenty percent of women in the United States live the final years of their lives struggling to make ends meet below the the poverty line, surviving on less than $9,669 a year. The percentage of women over the age of 65 living in near poverty, with incomes up to $14,504, is even higher.

There are several reasons for why women face so many more financial challenges in their 'golden years' than men do:
First, women earn about a third less than men make during their working lives; that means they generate smaller contributions to Social Security, pensions and 401(k) accounts....

Perhaps most important, women live longer than men. At age 65, a woman can expect to live an average of 19 more years-three years longer than men. That means whatever she’s saved for retirement must last longer.

The result is a yawning retirement security gap. Here’s how it looks by the numbers.

What to do about this yawning 'security gap' is not quite as clear as its causes. Early planning is, of course, very important. So get your moms to start budgeting for retirement before they stop working, and make sure they are keeping some money for themselves rather than funneling it all into care of others. And do the same for yourself. A tip given by WISER Executive Director Cindy Hounsell is to look at what your Social Security will be and compare it to what you live on now. If there's a gap, and there probably will be, it needs to be addressed before retirement.

We also need to be ensuring that this pay gap between the sexes is not allowed to persist. For if it does, it will haunt us for years to come. Of course, making sure that you're making a fair wage isn't exactly easy in many environments, so we have to keep pushing to get the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed. It is the least we can do, for our moms and ourselves.

Thanks to Feminist Law Professors for pointing this inequity out.

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