America is in trouble when it comes to retirement readiness, and the situation for women is particularly challenging. Choosing the right career can make a big difference.
A recent analysis found more than 40 percent of households headed by people aged 55 through 70 lack enough resources to maintain their current standard of living when they retire.
One reason is the median personal income of all Americans 55 through 69 leveled off after 2000. Considering women in the U.S. who work full-time, year-round are paid only 80 cents for every dollar paid to men, the impact has been particularly difficult for them, translating into an average wage gap of $403,440 over a 40-year career. For women of color, the impact is even worse, amounting to almost $900,000 for black women and more than a $1 million for Latinas.
The wage difference is compounded by the fact that the responsibility for most of our nation’s elderly, long-term care needs falls most heavily on women. A massive 66 percent of caregivers are female, and they can spend as much as 50 percent more time providing care than male caregivers.
This means fewer hours on the job or fewer years in the workforce. Overall, middle-aged women providing care services are estimated to experience a 41 percent reduction in paid work hours — translating into fewer contributions to Social Security, pensions and other retirement savings plans.
Consequently, women caregivers are much less likely to receive a pension and, when they do, it is about half as much as men receive.
It is perhaps no wonder, then, that for women age 65 and older, their typical income is 25 percent less than men, and this gap grows to 44 percent by age 80 and older. As a result, women are about 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and older.
Women may therefore want to look carefully at careers that are more advantageous to them when it comes to retirement security, such as health care, education and public administration fields, where the traditional pension model is more prevalent, providing higher retirement incomes and lower rates of poverty than in other industries.
As someone who works to support retirement security for America’s teachers, who are predominantly women, I am proud to report that women, age 65 and older in the education sector, have higher average household incomes during retirement compared to women in many other sectors. The poverty rates of women 65 and older in education are similarly lower compared to other careers.
A teacher deserves a secure, adequate retirement that she cannot outlive — and that is what teachers are receiving. It’s just one more reason why, when it comes to careers for women, education offers a great opportunity for many reasons, especially with the retirement security it promises.