More Women are Retiring into Poverty

By | May 20, 2014

older womenI don’t know if you have ever tried using an online retirement savings calculator to figure out how much money you should have when you retire, but the calculations are so complicated they make you want to spend all the money in your IRA fund now and hope you die early.

Not only are they complicated, but the calculator results usually tell you that you have to sock away hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each month just to keep you out of poverty when you turn 65 years old. This can be a Herculean task when you are just trying to earn enough to pay rent, or pay off your credit card bill.

And if you are a woman getting close to retirement age, the odds that you might wind up living below the poverty line soar. Experts say that women are twice as likely as men to live in poverty during their retirement years.

Allowing women who are in the sunset of their lives to live in poverty is even worse than the glass ceiling, an unfair system that prevents women (or minorities) from accessing senior-level jobs. And it is even worse than the gender gap, the disparities between genders that result in unfair economic, political, or educational levels.

In many family situations, women are the sole parent and provider for their children. In fact, six out of 10 women who give birth are not married. They become both mother and father. They are both the caregiver and the bread-winner. They are the nurturing parent, as well as the disciplinarian.

Fast forward decades after their children become adults, and these same hardworking mothers end up in poverty because they spent all of their energy and financial resources making sure their family survived. In today’s economic state, social security is not a secure means of revenue during retirement. It is more of a supplement than a nest egg. People need to have resources other than just social security.

Some older women are stuck on fixed incomes, living in tiny apartments, and eating from food banks. Some end up on the streets. In our work with people living on America’s streets, we see these women every day, pushing shopping carts filled with the remnants of their former lives.

Give them a slight make-over, and they could easily be our mothers or grandmothers.

But, in a society that worships youth, we have forgotten to honor women of retirement age who struggle to make ends meet. After years of working hard to raise their families, they never received that proverbial gold watch upon retirement. Instead, they earned a path into homelessness.

These broken women on our streets are signs of our broken society. Retiring to our streets should not be allowed. If we truly embrace family values, then we should value our sisters, mothers, and grandmothers by making sure they do not fall into poverty during their retirement years.


  1. Posted May 20, 2014 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    Nicely written. Permanent housing is necessary for them. Are there government identified eligibility criteria that can sift these people out and make them a priority for grant matching?

  2. Posted Jun 15, 2014 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Great article. Yes, many women are retiring into poverty. I know women who can barely make ends meet with their social security check, and they have to resort to food pantries and live in senior apartments. And what about the women who have to retire early?