jar of money dumped over
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Half of American women aged 25 or more years are struggling financially and finding it difficult to plan for a secure retirement. That’s according to the newly released results of two surveys commissioned by the National Council on Aging and Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement.

“It’s sobering to see such widespread financial insecurity among women in America,” NCOA President and CEO Ramsey Alwin said in a statement. “We know that a woman’s ability to age well starts early — not just when she retires. If women of all ages are finding it difficult to stay afloat today, their chances of aging with security are dim.”

According to the What Women Want surveys, almost half of American women aged 25 or more years lack an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Many said that they are living paycheck to paycheck without any meaningful savings. Their main concerns about getting older, according to the surveys, are the cost of housing, Social Security and Medicare being cut, not having enough savings to retire and outliving their savings in retirement. 

For millennials, defined as those born between 1981 and 1996, the top concern is the cost of housing (48%); for Gen X, those born between 1965 and 1980, it is not having enough savings to be able to retire (44%); and for baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, it is Social Security and Medicare cuts (57%).

The worries cut across political party lines as well. Thirty-six percent of Republican respondents said they are most concerned about not having enough savings to retire, whereas 48% of independent voters said they are worried about the cost of housing, and 39% of women who identify themselves as Democrats rated Social Security and Medicare cuts as their prime concerns.

Low-income women were likely to express a lack of confidence in planning for retirement. About 75% of low-income women aged 25 or more reported that they do not have emergency savings, or “rainy-day funds,” to cover expenses should they get sick or become unemployed. The breakdown was equal among white, Black and Hispanic/Latina respondents.

Between 30% and 40% of lower-income women said they believe their retirement income or savings will not be enough to even pay their monthly bills and obligations.

When asked to express their level of support for 13 potential policy solutions that could help with retirement, eight of the solutions received at least 90% support from the respondents.

Those solutions included aligning the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment with real-life expectations; providing a tax break for family caregivers; increasing minimum Social Security benefits; improving access to the Supplemental Social Security Income program; making available free educational information on retirement planning; developing a new, government-provided retirement plan; offering government assistance to help older adults purchase basic necessities; and creating a new government program that would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave to workers who need to leave work to care for a seriously ill family member.

“In an era of divided politics, the level of bipartisan support for these policies is quite notable,” President of Lake Research Partners Celinda Lake said. “It speaks to the real challenges facing women across the country — and the support they need and want.”