Saving women from an impoverished retirement

Mike Sante

I think we all know that women are more likely than men to reach the end of their careers without the resources they need for a safe and secure retirement.

But why is that? What are the unique challenges women face?

I put those questions to Cindy Hounsell, the president of WISER, the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement. It's a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that's all about improving the long-term financial security of women.

She has lots of answers.

"Three out of four working women earn less than $40,000 a year," Hounsell says. "So it's going to take paying a lot of attention to financial planning, budgeting, things like that, to make sure that you get yourself on track."

Cindy Hounsell

Cindy Hounsell

Or, to think about it another way, women make 75 cents for every $1 earned by men. Over a lifetime of work, Hounsell says, that results in a difference of over $300,000 in earning power.

To overcome that handicap, women need to take advantage of any opportunity to save, especially in tax-deferred retirement plans where they work.

Yet they're often overwhelmed with the daily demands of raising children and caring for aging parents. They're less likely to think about themselves and take that first step, to sign up and start investing in their own futures.

"That's why, for many older women who never really had money problems … for the first time in their lives, in retirement, they find themselves in poverty," Hounsell says.

Intrigued? Spend a few minutes listening to our entire conversation …

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