People are living longer, which also means more people are working longer, either because they want to stay engaged or they need more time to prepare for a longer retirement. Unfortunately, these trends haven’t made ageism any less prominent. One researcher found careers tend to peak at age 45 for men and age 40 for women. Employees beyond that age are less likely to be considered for promotions.1
As bleak as that may sound, imagine what it means for a woman. If she wants to have children, she will likely have them by the time she experiences the roadblock of ageism – meaning she’s already spent some time out of the workforce. Also, women are already behind the curve due to the persistent wage gap between men and women who do the same job. A woman who makes $10,169 a year less than her male counterpart will earn $406,760 less over a 40-year career.2
Earnings are just part of the story. Lower income means less money a woman can contribute to retirement savings accounts and lower Social Security benefits in retirement. The combination of lower income and fewer working years makes it more difficult for women to create a strategy for financial independence in retirement.
The problem of women earning less income impacts everyone. The problem can cause an over-reliance on government benefits and directly impacts the U.S. economy and overall GDP. Women’s participation in the workforce fell from 60.7 percent in 2000 to 57.2 percent in 2016.3
Not only is the U.S. missing out on a prime opportunity to enhance economic growth, it may actually begin to see an economic reversal due to reduction in the workforce.
The problem appears to originate at the beginning of women’s careers. If a young woman is paid less than a male colleague performing the same job with equivalent education and experience, it’s not likely she will ever catch up. Instead of determining a new hire’s salary based on the education, skills and experience necessary for a specific position, many employers still base the amount offered on the candidate’s prior salary history.4 Inequitable pay at the beginning could result in lower income throughout a woman’s career and into retirement.
While the Equal Pay Act — the federal law prohibiting pay discrimination based on gender — has been around for more than 55 years, it hasn’t balanced the scale when it comes to equal pay for men and women. However, there are some indications times are changing. For example, seven states have passed laws that prohibit employers from using a job candidate’s wage history to determine the salary offered for a specific position. New legislation to this effect is being considered in Maryland, Rhode Island and Illinois this year.5
For women concerned about a long-term retirement income strategy, talk to us. We can offer insurance solutions based on your current situation to help put you on a path to maintain the retirement lifestyle you deserve.
1 Lindsay Cook. Financial Times. Dec. 21, 2018. “Ageism in the workplace ‘starts at 40’ for women.” https://www.ft.com/content/e4141576-04eb-11e9-99df-6183d3002ee1. Accessed Jan. 30, 2019.
2 Susan Tompor. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Jan. 22, 2019. “How the gender pay gap hurts women’s retirement and 401(k) plans.” https://www.post-gazette.com/news/aging-edge/2019/01/22/Susan-Tompor-How-the-gender-pay-gap-hurts-women-s-retirement-and-401-k-plans/stories/201901220102. Accessed Jan. 30, 2019.
3 Alison Burke. Brookings Institution. Dec. 5, 2017. “10 facts about American women in the workforce.” https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brookings-now/2017/12/05/10-facts-about-american-women-in-the-workforce/. Accessed Jan. 30, 2019.
4 Lilly Ledbetter. CNN. Jan. 30, 2019. “Lilly Ledbetter: Women can’t wait any longer for paycheck fairness.” https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/30/opinions/paycheck-fairness-lilly-ledbetter/index.html. Accessed Feb. 28, 2019.
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