Our (Not-So-Golden) Golden Years

Our (Not-So-Golden) Golden Years

Mothers are so busy managing the here and now that thinking about retirement rarely rises to the top of the “To Do” list. Women’s advocates here in Washington, D.C. are pushing a proposal that would strengthen Social Security for women, especially those who have spent years in the unpaid labor of caregiving, and/or been hit by the lower pay in female-dominated job sectors. Women’s Enews reports:

Because women earn lower wages and take time out of the work force for caregiving, they receive smaller Social Security checks than do male workers. In 2009, the average annual Social Security income of a retired man was $15,620 compared to $12,155 for a woman.

Social Security has always been intended to be only part of income in retirement. Elder adults, it was believed, could also depend on personal savings and pensions. However, the landscape looks very different now, as pensions are scarce and under-employment and unemployment become increasingly common. For millions of Americans, especially women, Social Security will be all there is.

Authors of the report suggest that half the average annual wage, or $11,758 in 2011 dollars, be credited for each of a maximum of five years for a worker who reduces or eliminates wages to perform family care. It doesn’t seem unreasonable, when you consider that caring for an older adult or parent alone will cost that former worker an average of over $303,000 in wages, lost Social Security income and pension benefits, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. Caring for children costs women hundreds of thousands to over a million dollars in earnings and benefits, depending on her educational level. It shouldn’t be that hard to protect those who care for others from economic peril, or persuade policy makers that changes are in order.

But don’t hold your breath – as a nation, we can’t even agree that adequate health care ought to be accessible to everyone. Building consensus that raising children and caring for the sick, elderly or disabled should not push you into poverty in retirement will be an uphill climb – unless, of course, we simply insist on it.

‘Til next time,

Your (Wo)Man in Washington

About Valerie Young

Valerie Young is a public policy analyst who focuses on the economic status of mothers and other family caregivers. She promotes social justice by arming mothers with information and a healthy dose of outrage. She is the Advocacy Coordinator at the National Association of Mothers' Centers, and is a reporter for The Shriver Report and contributor to Brain/Child Magazine. Follow her blog, Your (Wo)Man in Washington, on Twitter @WomanInDC and on Facebook as Valerie Young and Your (Wo)Man in Washington.

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  • Lastminodds

    Here is a little tidbit of information, for those of us who want a better life and hope for a better world through the nuturing of our children and loved ones, you know the generation to come that is responsible for the american dream and will run american for all of us at some point….Your local child support office does not represent any individual or group, but represents the interest of the state, this means that if they are paying out and funds are disperesed then they have something to say, but if you are doing what needs to be done and you are a mother working in the interest of your children doing your job and sacrificing every selfish inclination in the name of motherhood, then you are on your own, because Congress doesn’t care and your representatives aren’t listening..It’s funny because if they considered america as a whole and their constituency and they want the vote, mothers who don’t have the gas or the technology or the means to get to that pole have virtually no voices, I guess they like it that way, no vote no voice, no reason to listen or act…and there are those who wonder why the middle class is virtually disappearing……really?

  • http://www.rapunzelshairextensions.com/ Weave Hair Extensions

    Yes, I agree with you. Women need more social security, especially those who have spent years in the unpaid labor of care giving.