New Report Grapples With How to Cut Poverty Risk for Older Women
WASHINGTON, June 17 -- With major U.S. corporations declaring bankruptcy and the housing market persisting in its decline, can the financial picture get any worse? If you're an aging woman, the answer is yes.
A report released today by the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) tackles this issue head-on. Based on interviews and a day-long roundtable discussion with more than 30 retirement experts, How Can Women's Income Last As Long As They Do? moves beyond the traditional debate over how to amass savings for retirement and focuses instead on what to do with assets once retirement comes. The report asks the fundamental question: "How can our society protect our nation's older women against significant financial risks in retirement?"
Convened by WISER, retirement experts met in Washington to identify the appropriate role of government, employers, the financial services industry, families and women in making sure women's income lasts as long as they do. The WISER report is based on the roundtable discussion and survey research provided by Mathew Greenwald & Associates and the MetLife Mature Market Institute.
The concerns about retirement income insecurity are not new: People aren't saving enough, they're not investing intelligently, and they aren't going to have enough money to live 30 years or more in retirement.
When it comes to women in particular, these concerns are far more pressing:
- Women at age 65 are expected to live, on average, another 20 years -- four years longer than men. Money they have saved for retirement, if any, must last longer than men's.
- Less than half of today's working women have access to pension or retirement savings plans at work.
- Women are likely to spend some of their retirement years alone due to widowhood or divorce. For women age 85 and older, only 13 percent are married with a spouse present.
- Nearly 40% of older women living alone depend on Social Security for almost all of their income, and more than half would be living in poverty were it not for their Social Security benefits.
"Women are at real risk of living a life of poverty in their older years," says Cindy Hounsell, President of WISER. "As a group, we tend to live longer, earn less, and take time away from paid work to care for our families, and we have less in retirement savings."
The reality is that one in five single women age 65 or older lives in poverty. But common retirement planning guidance leaves us all at risk. The goal, according to many advisers, is to save enough money to support our life expectancy. But people -- especially women -- don't need life expectancy income, they need lifetime income. The gap between these goals is the crisis confronting millions of women in retirement.
"With workers losing so much of their retirement savings to our volatile economy over the past year, being able to stretch what's left over a lifetime is even more important," says Hounsell. "All of us have a responsibility -- employers, government, the financial industry, and individuals -- to find a meaningful solution to retirement poverty for women."
WISER is committed to continuing the search for answers, and the release of this report is just the beginning. Thought leaders will reconvene in December to further discuss viable solutions, picking up on the themes from the report released today.
How Can Women's Income Last As Long As They Do? Thought Leaders Discuss Managing Assets in Retirement is available for download on WISER's website at wiserwomen.org.
The Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement works to provide low- and moderate-income women with basic financial information aimed at helping them take financial control over their lives, and to increase awareness of the structural barriers that prevent women's adequate participation in the nation's retirement systems.