Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Keeping the Promise of Social Security for Older Women and their Families

Last week, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) celebrated Women’s Equality Day and we continue to commemorate the women who came before us and advocated for our right to vote. Even today, however, there are still women’s issues to address, like equal pay. We encourage you and your networks to participate with us next month in a push to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. Unequal pay continues to affect a woman's ability to make ends meet in retirement. As August comes to a close and we near the end of our month-long celebration of Social Security, we here at WOW would like to reflect on just how much Social Security helps older women reach economic security.

The Elder Index, a measure of income adequacy for adults 65 and over, developed by WOW and the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston, shows that women who live on Social Security alone receive on average just $12,536, though what is needed to make it is anywhere from $16,415 to $24,455 depending on their housing status. This means older women relying solely on Social Security receive 51 to 76 percent of what is needed to be secure in retirement. Despite the inability to provide 100% of the income needed to meet basic needs, Social Security is a reliable base of support for older women.

Furthermore, due to care giving responsibilities, many women leave the workforce and forfeit years of income and Social Security credits to take care of their loved ones, which is a contributing factor of why women are twice as likely to live in poverty as they age than men.

It is important to remember that while fiscal discipline is needed, it should not come at the cost of hurting Social Security beneficiaries. We must keep the promise of Social Security for future retirees who are now paying into the system and expect to receive benefits when they retire; that is how Congress set up the program 75 years ago and why it should be strengthened, not cut, so that older women, and all Americans, can continue to have a stable source of income on which they can depend on in retirement.

In celebration of Social Security's 75th birthday, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) is blogging throughout the month about the importance of this program to an elder's ability to age in place. This is the third and final blog of the month-long series.

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