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Retired Women More Likely to Face Financial Hardship


Friday, March 26, 2021   

FRANKFORT, Ky. - The persistent pay gap often leads to less retirement income for women, and advocates say pensions offer a solution.

According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, even if a woman is a full-time member of the workforce, she will earn less throughout her career and receive 80% of the retirement income than a man.

As a result, women tend to rely more on Social Security and, as they age, are more likely to slip into poverty.

NIRS executive director Daniel Doonan added that women face other challenges that can make retirement more costly.

"Given that women tend to be more durable than us guys," said Doonan, "meaning they live longer, on average - they should expect to need income for more years during retirement."

Women also are more likely to leave the labor force to give birth or provide caregiving for family members, which impacts their ability to save for retirement.

This week, Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed legislation that aimed to change Kentucky's teacher pension program. The bill would have required teachers hired next year to contribute more and work longer in order to receive pension benefits.

Doonan explained that women in fields such as education, where defined-benefit pension plans are more prevalent, have higher incomes in retirement and lower rates of poverty than in other industries.

"But teaching is a very big part of the public-sector workforce," said Doonan. "And it's actually a bright spot for women generally, because they still have access to quality retirement benefits that's still commonplace across most states."

But he added that access to defined-benefit pensions is shrinking as private-sector employers turn to other options.

"There's a recognition that do-it-yourself retirement is going to be very challenging for a large number of people," said Doonan. "So we do see some bipartisan agreement moving towards making defined contribution a little more user friendly, with lifetime income options."

In a January 2020 survey, about seven in ten workers said they were confident about having enough money to live comfortably in retirement, but it's expected that number has decreased since the start of the pandemic and economic recession.

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