skip to main content

Women’s Retirement Subject of Joint Hearing

On May 21, the Joint Economic Committee held a hearing, “Women’s Retirement Security.

“Women are worried about their financial security in retirement and saving enough, and rightly so,” said M. Cindy Hounsell, president, Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER). She continued, “The end result of the whole of women’s unique challenges is that when they hit their retirement years, women have 25 percent less retirement income and twice the poverty rate of men. When widowhood or divorce occurs, the effects are even more harmful. A GAO [Government Accountability Office] report found that the income of women near or in retirement dropped 37 percent as a result of widowhood, while men’s fell 22 percent. Divorce or separation reduced women’s income by 41 percent – almost twice the decline of men’s income. Today, the rate of poverty for women age 65 and over is 10.7 percent, compared to 6.2 percent for men. When looking at single women over age 65, the poverty rate jumps to 17.4 percent. In this mix is a poverty rate for white single women of 15.3 percent; 32.5 percent for single African American women; and 43.7 percent for single Hispanic women.”

Rachel Greszler, senior policy analyst, Economics and Entitlements, Center for Data Analysis, Heritage Foundation, said, “[T]oday’s generation of women retirees faces some unique challenges, but policies focused exclusively on today’s problems could do more harm than good for future women retirees. Fortunately, the gains women have made in education, income, and employment will better prepare them for retirement. On the other hand, however, younger men and women alike will have to grapple with unsustainable entitlement promises, the growing burden of a massive federal debt, and changes in culture and marriage that will create new retirement challenges.” She continued, “[T]o improve women’s security in retirement, policymakers should focus on Social Security reforms and enabling increased personal savings. With the decline in defined-benefit pensions, these two components of retirement income will become more important…[T]the single biggest component of retirement security is a strong economy. Without a job and rising income, individuals cannot adequately save for retirement. In this area, the government can do more by doing less.”

The following witnesses also testified:

  • Dr. Debra Whitman, executive vice president, Policy, Strategy and International Affairs, AARP; and
  • Dr. Brigitte Madrian, Aetna professor of Public Policy and Corporate Management, Harvard Kennedy School.