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  • Archive for the ‘Women Without Coverage’ Category

    Why Women Are Poor in Retirement

    Thursday, October 16th, 2008

    This post by WISER president Cindy Hounsell was featured on the National Council for Research on Women’s blog, “The Real Deal,” in honor of Blog Action Day-08: Poverty.

    By Cindy Hounsell President of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement

    As the candidates get ready for their debate tonight, there are a few things I would like to tell them.

    First, Social Security is intended to replace approximately 40 percent of an average earner’s wages, but many women rely on it as their primary or only source of retirement income. This is one of the major reasons why so many women are poor or near poor.

    Second, in theory, women should be saving more money than men because they live longer and will need money to support themselves for about three to four more years than men on average and pay for higher expenses for health care and prescription drugs. Yet, in reality they are not able to save the vast amounts that are needed. As a result, millions of women are vulnerable to outliving their assets and facing the real possibility of poverty.

    My hope is that public policymakers will adopt changes to prevent poverty in old age such as providing caregiver credits, improving and expanding the saver’s tax credit, developing a better system of financing and providing long-term care and considering the needs of older women who spend much of their income on health related expenses. In the meantime, women need to make the most of the existing system and make the best financial decisions toward securing their futures.

    Some basic and troublesome facts about women and retirement security—information the candidates need to hear:

    • Two-thirds of working women earn less than $30,000 a year.
    • Nearly half of all women work in low-paying jobs without retirement plans or 401 (k)s.
    • Women earn on average 78 cents for every dollar earned by men.
    • Working women pay a steep price for unequal pay. The typical 25 year old woman with a college degree in 1984, who is now in her mid 40s, has lost a total of $440,743 in wages over her lifetime.
    • Median earnings of full-time women workers in 2007 were $31,928 compared to $39,832 for men. The gap for minority women is even larger: median earnings for African American women in 2007 were $26,988; for Latino women, earnings were $22,880.

    Work Status
    • Women are more likely than men to work part-time. Part-time employment is associated with lower wages and fewer opportunities for retirement benefits.
    • Over a lifetime, women will spend 27 years in the workforce, compared to almost 40 years for men.

    Life Expectancy
    • Today, an average woman’s life expectancy at birth is 80.4 years, compared to 75.2 years for men. If a woman lives to age 65, she can expect to live until the age of 85 ― about three years longer than a 65-year-old man.

    Marital Status
    • Between the ages 75–84, only 34 percent of women are married with their spouse present. For women aged 85 and older, only 13 percent are married with their spouse present. In contrast, 70 percent of men aged 75–84 and 56 percent aged 85 and older are married with a spouse present.
    • With the death of a spouse, women often experience a steep drop in income. When a widow loses a spouse she also stands to lose a significant amount of income from her spouse’s pension and even from Social Security.
    • Many widows face poverty for the first time in their lives.

    Retirement Income
    • The median income for retired women is $13,764 compared to men’s income of $23,322 or 59 percent of what retired men are receiving.
    • The poverty rate for women age 65 and over is 12 percent. Single women in this age group are at much higher risk of poverty. Over 20 percent of single white women are living in poverty; the rate is double for single African American and Hispanic women.

    In light of these facts, any national discussion about cutbacks in the Social Security and Medicare programs should not just be focused on reducing the deficit but balanced with the actual delivery of income and benefits and the implications on the lives of older women. Women traditionally spend their money on taking care of their families throughout their working lives.

    Let’s hope our candidates and policymakers remember this as they create our future policies.

    For more information on NCRW, check out their Real Deal blog .

    For Love, Money, or Health Benefits?

    Monday, August 18th, 2008

    “They marry for better or worse, for richer or poorer, for co-pays and deductibles.”

    Most of us have heard the age-old warning “Don’t marry for money” at least once in our lives, but how many of us are familiar with the phrase “Don’t marry for health benefits?” An article in the New York Times called Health Benefits Inspire Rush to Marry, or Divorce suggests that as the cost of health care rises and many individuals find themselves without adequate insurance, couples are making marital decisions based on their health care situations. One couple married shortly after meeting so that one partner could have health coverage; another couple seriously contemplated ending their marriage in order to qualify as low-income and receive health care subsidies from the state. One woman admitted to staying in an unhappy marriage because she was unable to afford health insurance, and by staying married to her husband could ensure she was adequately covered.

    When we think of marriage, we tend to think of love, security, children, and let’s be honest, fifty years of telling him to pick up his dirty socks and hand over the remote. So when did marriage become linked with health benefits, and will co-pays and deductibles one day be slipped into our marriage vows? Before you take that walk down the aisle, know that there are other options out there for women without health coverage. As a starting point, check out Healthier and Wiser: Women Without Coverage Part I and Healthier and Wiser: Women Without Coverage Part II, the first two posts of a WISER blog series that addresses some of the main health care issues women encounter.

    Healthier and Wiser: Women Without Coverage Part II

    Wednesday, August 13th, 2008
    Healthier and Wiser

    Many people who have health insurance obtain it through an employer. However, there may be times in your life when you are without coverage, facing coverage choices or grappling with retirement health issues. The “Healthier and Wiser” series will address some of the main health care coverage issues women encounter at different stages of their lives. It will point you in the direction of where to go to find more information. It is not intended as legal advice. You can check out the “Healthier and Wiser” series on Wednesdays.

    This Week: Women Without Coverage Part II

    1. If you work part-time, can you qualify for health care coverage from your employer if you increase your hours?
    • Employers don’t have to offer health care plans, and they are not required to cover everybody they employ. Most companies that offer health benefits require that you work a certain number of hours per year to qualify for health benefits, so it is worth finding out if changing your work schedule would make you eligible for benefits. It is often a smart financial move to increase your hours at your current job, or even change jobs if that is an option, in order to obtain health care coverage for your family.
    1. If you are not working, or have a low annual income, what are your options?
    • If you have lost your insurance due to loss of a job or a spouse, look into COBRA coverage. COBRA is a law that gives you the right to buy coverage in a workplace plan if you are no longer eligible to be covered under the plan as an employee or a dependent of one. You have 60 days to sign up for it through your previous employer or your spouse’s previous employer. Once you sign up for COBRA coverage, you will be allowed to stay in the plan for a specified time period, although you will be required to pay the full premium for coverage. Ask the former employer for more details about the options and benefits.
    • Medicaid provides health coverage for low-income individuals and families. Low and moderate-income children can often be covered through the State Children’s Health Insurance program (SCHIP) and some state programs are now covering parents and childless adults as well. Call your state Medicaid office for more information.
    1. If you don’t have health care coverage, can you negotiate fees with providers or do you have to pay whatever the doctor or hospital charges?
    • If you don’t have coverage, always try to negotiate a price and/or a payment schedule, although providers have no obligation to accept your offer. You might offer to pay the provider whatever an insurance plan would have paid for your treatment, which would generally be lower than the provider’s “sticker price”.


    About Us

    WISER is a nonprofit organization that works to help women, educators and policymakers understand the important issues surrounding women's retirement income. WISER creates a variety of consumer publications including fact sheets, booklets and a quarterly newsletter that explain in easy-to-understand language the complex issues surrounding Social Security, divorce, pay equity, pensions, savings and investments, banking, home-ownership, long-term care and disability insurance.

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