Policy Recommendations: Retirement Security for Women

Because of a lifelong pay gap, women are more vulnerable than men during their retirement years: They are more apt to struggle to pay their bills and to live in poverty.

To help alleviate the problem, the American Association of University Women supports strengthening retirement programs, including protecting Social Security, improving pension benefits and ensuring women receive fair pay throughout their careers to bolster their savings.

  • The current Social Security system contains many benefits that must be maintained and strengthened, including full cost-of-living adjustments, guaranteed lifetime benefits, a progressive benefit formula, spousal and widow benefits, and disability and survivor benefits.
  • Making sure everyone takes home a fair paycheck from day one would help women’s long-term wealth. Supporting pay equity bills, such as the Paycheck Fairness Act, can go a long way toward a more secure retirement for women.
  • Many women are unable to participate in their employer’s defined contribution and defined benefit pension plans: Women spend on average 12 years less in the workforce than men, and since vesting depends on how long you work, they are less likely to be meet eligibility requirements. By allowing workers who take off time under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to count that time toward those vesting requirements, more women will be able to participate in pension plans.
  • Pensions should be extended to more women who work part-time. By requiring employers sponsoring 401(k) and other defined contribution plans to allow part-time employees to participate in the plan, more women would be eligible to participate.
  • Today, millions of women live in poverty because the federal minimum wage is inadequate for ensuring the economic well-being of workers and their families. Women comprise a majority of the low-wage workforce, and African American women and Latinas are significantly overrepresented in the low-wage workforce. Raising the minimum wage would put more money in the pockets of many low-income women.
  • Older workers face particular forms of discrimination, which limit their ability to earn a paycheck. The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act would give those workers tools to battle age discrimination and continue to take home a fair wage.

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