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Women more likely to face poverty during retirement

ADAM ALLINGTON | 7/17/2016, 9:02 p.m. | Updated on 7/17/2016, 9:05 p.m.
During their working years, women tend to earn less than men, and when they retire, they’re more likely to live ...
For Marsha Hall, 60, the process of trying to save for retirement has been nearly impossible. During their working years, women tend to earn less than men, and when they retire, they're more likely to live in poverty. Adam Allington

CHICAGO (AP) – During their working years, women tend to earn less than men, and when they retire, they’re more likely to live in poverty.

These are women who raised children and cared for sick and elderly family members, often taking what savings and income they had and spending it on things besides their own retirement security.

The National Institute on Retirement Security, a nonprofit research center, reports that women are 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and older. Women ages 75 to 79 are three times more likely.

While experts cite a pay gap as a major cause for retirement insecurity, other factors play a role, from single parenthood and divorce to the fact that women typically live longer than men.

For Marsha Hall, 60, the process of trying to save for retirement has been nearly impossible.

“I’ve had jobs that included a 401(k) and I was able to put some money aside every month,’’ she said. “But then I would get laid off and have to cash out the 401(k) to have money to live on.’’

Born and raised in Detroit, Hall is divorced and doesn’t have any children. She works part time as a file clerk. She and her siblings pitch in to care for their 75-year-old mother. Hall said she tries not to think about what her situation will be like at that age.

“My bills are current, I have food,’’ she said, “but I’m still living paycheck to paycheck. If it wasn’t for Section 8 [a housing subsidy], I don’t know where I’d be living.’’

Joan Entmacher, vice president for family economic security at the National Women’s Law Center, said “the solution to the retirement (funding) crisis starts with the earnings and wage gap.’’

That gap narrowed between the 1970s and 1990s, but stopped shrinking in 2001. Women earn about 76 to 79 cents on the dollar, compared with men.

Women are more likely to report that Social Security is the biggest source of income – 50 percent to 38 percent for men, according to a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Women are 14 percentage points less likely to say they will receive a pension.

Entmacher said women are more likely to take on caregiving responsibilities, which increases the likelihood they will end up working part-time jobs, often for lower wages, and without benefits such as pensions, sick leave and health care.

“The bulk of stay-at-home moms are not these high income, well-educated women that you read about,’’ she said.

Over a 40-year career, the pay gap between men and women adds up to an average of $430,480, according to the Census Bureau. For minorities and women of color, the number is much higher.

“If we are talking about a 65-year-old Black woman, she was born before desegregation,’’ said Karen Lincoln, a professor at the University of Southern California and director of a center for geriatric social work.

“This has a huge impact on things like the quality of education they receive, the employment opportunities available to them, and their ability to accumulate wealth,’’ Lincoln said.