Women are more likely to suffer financially when claiming social security. Why? Social Security’s rules for retirement were set in the 1930s and have yet to catch up with the modern women.
The government-funded welfare system, Social Security, started under the FDR administration in the 1930s. Largely based on your work record, they work to average your highest 35 years of earnings.
It is important to note that there are two other ways of claiming benefits based on marital status: spousal benefits and survivor benefits. According to Andrew Eschtruth, communications director at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, these strategies of collecting are still more commonly used by women. Martial patterns have changed in recent years though. Shorter marriages (those lasting less than 10 years) are more common and mean that spousal or survivor benefits are often off the table.
Women are also largely affecting since they take maternity leave and time off for children or other family members. On average, women spend about 10 years out of the workforce as caregivers.
“Women have some unusual challenges relative to men, in that they live longer, so they’re spending more years in retirement,” said Tina Ambrozy, president of sales and distribution at Nationwide. “They also have issues with the wage gap of not earning as much.”
Even in retirement, women still face higher costs in health care and statistically live longer than men. Only 58% of women have all of their costs covered by social security. According to Ambrozy, more realistically, the benefits only cover about 40% of retirement costs.
There are possible changes, though. Social Security is rolling out new rules that could reduce the pressure on women; Caregiver credits.
The idea is not new to the rest of the world. The UK, Sweden, and Germany already participate in this. Either way, it can help women by taking away the years when a caregiver earned zero out of the equation, thus bringing the average for their highest earning years higher. Or the individual could receive a straight wage credit, where the money that the individual did not technically make would factor into those calculations to compensate them for caregiving.
Although this idea is still debated about with politicians, it can be a successful strategy in reducing women’s financial stress. At this point, the only way for women to avoid coming up short, is to actively plan for retirement.