Work & Save: Empowering Women to Take Control of the Future
This week kicks off the celebration of Women’s History Month. It is indeed a special time of year dedicated to teaching and celebrating how women have shaped our country. There are so many fantastic women that can be lifted up to inspire us all, from Abigail Adams (former First Lady and early advocate for women’s rights) to Stacey Cunningham (the first female president of the New York Stock Exchange) and the historic number of women holding office today. For many of us at AARP, it’s a time to reflect on our founder Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus who dramatically changed the landscape of aging in America.
Most people don’t know this, but back in the 1940s, AARP’s visionary founder Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus set out to improve the lives of older Americans after finding a retired teacher living in an abandoned chicken coop. In that moment, Ethel dedicated herself to standing up for injustice and transforming the marketplace so that more people can choose how they live as they age. And, in 1958, she founded AARP on the belief that in order to live life to its full potential, the rules of aging needed to change. To this day, AARP continues to be a champion for older Americans.
A lot has changed since Dr. Andrus first found that teacher. But you know what hasn’t changed? The fact that women are more likely to face poverty than men during retirement, especially black women and Latinas.
Women face an uphill battle when it comes to their future financial security. On average, women live longer than men, so their retirement savings need to stretch farther into the future. On top of that, their wages tend to be lower, making it more challenging to save and their future Social Security benefits even smaller. What’s more, many take time out of the workforce (or turn to alternative work plans like part-time or contracting) to provide care for children, elderly parents and other loved ones. All of these factors make it even harder for women to grow the savings they need for a secure future.
While Social Security is a critical piece of the puzzle, it is not enough to depend on. Yet, so many women age 65+ rely on Social Security for nearly all of their family income:
- Nearly 1 out of 4 women ages 65+;
- Almost 2 out of 5 older black women; and
- Nearly 1 in 3 older Latinas.
We need to take steps to change this trend now! We can start by removing one of the biggest obstacles that prevent women of all ages from growing the savings they need to take control of their financial future – the lack of access to workplace retirement savings options. Millions of women work all their lives with few or no opportunities to participate in retirement savings plans through their jobs – in fact, nearly half of all female workers have no access to a workplace plan. Worse yet, more than two-thirds of black women and nearly three-fourths of Latinas do not participate in a savings plan.
The Work and Save programs passed by 12 states – and proposed by dozens more – can help these women take control of their future by helping them to grow the additional savings they’ll need to deal with the rising costs of basic needs and health care. These programs provide an easy pathway for women to save for retirement out of their regular paycheck. Employees are in control. They get to decide if they want to participate and how much they want to save. Importantly for women, the savings is their own money that moves with them wherever life may take them – and they can rely on it to take care of themselves in later years.
This type of innovative thinking is just what we need to help women breakthrough to build a more secure future for themselves and their families. And, it is yet another reason all of us here at AARP will continue to fight for Work and Save programs all across the country!
To learn more about Work & Save programs, please visit: aarp.org/myfuture.