Retirement security: The perfect Mother’s Day gift

Max Richtman

Women in Rappahannock County should give themselves a Mother’s Day gift by protecting their financial security in old age. Unfortunately, older women are typically in a more precarious financial position than men — thanks to a variety of demographic and economic factors.

On average, women live longer than men, meaning they must stretch their retirement dollars further. In addition, women have been less able than men to save for retirement because of unequal pay (as of 2017, the gender pay gap between women and men in Virginia was 22 cents on the dollar), working part-time or in low-paying service jobs, or taking time off to care for children and other family members.

Not only are women less able than men to save for retirement, their Social Security benefits are lower, too, because they are calculated on a retiree’s top-earning 35 years. In fact, the average annual benefit for women 65 and older is about $13,000 compared to roughly $18,000 for men. This is problematic because senior women tend to depend more on Social Security income than men do, especially those living alone. Without Social Security benefits, some 50 percent of elderly women in Virginia would be poor.

The very best way to for women to protect themselves against falling into poverty at an advanced age is to consider the optimum time to claim Social Security benefits. The longer a worker waits to claim retirement benefits (up to age 70), the higher her permanent monthly benefit and cost of living increases will be.

Yet, half of American women (and 80 percent of married women!) claim Social Security retirement at the earliest possible age — 62 — fixing their lifetime benefits at a lower rate. Not everyone can wait, but for women who expect to live into their 80s, the difference could mean up to $1,000 per month in income — for life. And that’s a Mother’s Day gift worth cherishing.

Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, has a home in Woodville.

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