Women and Financial Security in Retirement

- 6:00

with Anna Maria Chavez of the National Council on Aging


Dec 02, 2019

On average, women save 43% less for retirement than men.

Anna Maria Chavez, Executive Vice President and Chief Growth Officer of the National Council on Aging, discusses the barriers that contribute to this savings gap and how women can better prepare for retirement.

Hosted by: Ellee Pai Hong Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Pai Hong: Approximately 10,000 Americans turn 65 every single day. As this aging population approaches retirement, recent studies report that women, in particular, have concerns that rising health-care and prescription-drug costs will outpace their retirement savings. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Ellee Pai Hong. Joining me to discuss financial insecurity for women approaching retirement is Anna Maria Chavez. She is Executive Vice President and Chief Growth Officer of the National Council on Aging. Anna Maria, thanks so much for coming in. Appreciate your time today.

Chavez: Great, Ellee. It's great to be back, especially to speak about an important issue for all us.

Pai Hong: It's such an important issue. And you released some really interesting numbers recently. I want to go through some of them with you.

Chavez: Perfect.

Pai Hong: One of them -- 60% of women age 60 and over are worried that health-care costs will exceed retirement income, and that's compared to 56% of Americans age 60 and over regardless of gender. And those statistics run pretty consistent in terms of prescription care costs, as well. But looking at these numbers, there's a story behind it, right?

Chavez: Absolutely. Normally, there is a story, and it's a story really I want to talk about today because more people need to understand the elements of that story. The data that we found this year working with Ipsos Research was something that I think I knew inherently as a woman, right, that aging disproportionately impacts women. And what the data showed was this. One, that women have concerns about, "What's going to happen as I grow older?" Two, that there's an underlying issue around the gap of wealth between men and women, and it grows wider as they grow older. And, three, there are things that actually we can do to support women and men as they grow old to think about financial security in their fourth quarter of life.

Pai Hong: Let's talk about those things that you mentioned and break it down a little bit. The first thing is that there is a wage gap between men and women. We make 80 cents on the dollar compared to men, on top of which we live longer than men.

Chavez: Yes, hopefully. That's the plan. That's the plan.

Pai Hong: Right. So there's basis to all these numbers.

Chavez: Sure. Well, and again, every year, we celebrate the highlight of these issues with -- This year, women have made enough money to make ends meet. But for me, it starts at a very young age. It starts when a young girl thinks about what is their potential career path, when they stop raising their hand in fourth grade because they're getting feedback that maybe they're not good in math and science. We're not preparing young women to go into careers that actually give them the wealth to live well in the fourth quarter in retirement. So that's one issue. Two, what we're finding -- There was a recent study that just came out -- actually McKinsey and LeanIn.org -- about what is stopping women succeeding in their careers. And we're finding that, actually, it's that first rung in their career ladder. It's when they make a decision, they want to go into a management role to hopefully get higher pay, they're not getting that opportunity at the same rate as men. So we're talking about the pipeline for women. How do they increase their financial health throughout their career so that every time they get a paycheck, they're investing a part of that in their 401(k), they're putting it aside for a rainy day?

Pai Hong: And thinking about it near your retirement age is much too late. You need to start thinking about this as soon as you start working.

Chavez: Absolutely. You start when you're in your twenties, right? It's compound interest. We want both men and women to start thinking about it because the systems that were put in place in the 1960s -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid -- we're assuming that women and men may succeed to live until their seventies or eighties. Well, today, actually, a woman who is 60 years old will have a great chance of living into her nineties. A 10-year-old girl today has a 50% chance of living to 110. So, again, we can't rely on the systems that we had back in the '60s to support us as we grow older. We have to invest in new systems, and that includes investment in the stock market, investment in homes.

Pai Hong: And on the surface, this seems like an issue that women should be concerned about, but it's for both genders to think about and to hopefully solve.

Chavez: Sure. And look at the numbers, right? If we say today that 10,000 people are turning 65 but 54% of that population are women, then, again, more women are entering this stage of life unprepared. But we can do something about it. First of all, it's just acknowledgment of the issue, and, two, look at the underlying issues that are impacting it. Going back to the Ipsos Research we were talking about at the earlier part of the segment, the number-one thing that are keeping women awake at night is, "I do not want to be a burden on my family as I get older. Help me figure out, if I'm going to live longer, how do I continue to cover my health-care costs?" That means starting now with healthy living alternatives, right? Are you exercising? Are you preparing yourself to live another 40 years? The other thing we're also talking about is how we're going to keep women in the workforce, both men and women. So, if they're in their seventies and eighties, is the work environment an inducement for them to stay to actually meet the ends that they need to at the end of the day?

Pai Hong: On that note, Anna Maria Chavez, always great to see you. Thank you so much for your time today.

Chavez: Thank you.

Pai Hong: And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Ellee Pai Hong.

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