Article Summaries and Contributors’ Profiles

Baby Boomer Women: Secure Futures or Not?

Book InformationMajor Findings

Chapter 1, Page 9

“Policymakers have long ignored the plight of boomer women approaching retirement with insufficient resources. This needs to change, and quickly.” Anna M. Rappaport, President, Anna Rappaport Consulting

In her article “Easing the Strain on Boomer Women in Retirement: Why Efforts Must Begin Now,” Anna Rappaport strongly urges U.S. policymakers to stop ignoring the plight of boomer women facing retirement with inadequate resources. In addition to identifying compelling demographics, the author analyzes the diverse socioeconomic factors underlying policy development affecting the retirement security of boomer women. To improve the financial and retirement futures of aging boomer women, she offers enlightened recommendations such as reducing barriers to phased retirement, recognizing the value and importance of employer-sponsored pension plans, maintaining the Social Security system, and providing safety nets for the increased number of boomer women who will fall into poverty.

Chapter 2, Page 19

“Boomer women are waking up to the fact that they will need more money than they thought to live comfortably in their later years, and will view work as a transition to or an integral part of their retirement.” Sandra Timmermann, Director, MetLife Mature Market Institute

Sandra Timmermann focuses her article “Tailoring the Workplace to Boomer Women” on baby boomer women and their increasing participation in the nation’s workforce. The author points out that while women have made advances, they are still far behind men when it comes to earnings and related benefits, which will negatively impact their financial futures. To counter this outcome, she recommends creative solutions to boomer women, including becoming financially literate and engaging in life options planning. For employers, the author recommends implementing phased retirement programs, establishing eldercare benefits, and leveraging human capital to address the “brain drain” caused by aging, retiring boomers.

Chapter 3, Page 29

“Women baby boomers have grown up in a much different world than women currently in retirement.” Alicia H. Munnell, Director, Center for Retirement Research, Peter F. Drucker Professor of Management Sciences Carroll School of Management, Boston College

Alicia Munnell addresses the ways that baby boomer women will enter retirement with substantially different characteristics than women retirees of previous generations. In her article “Female Boomers: Retirement’s Brave New World,” the author observes that while women boomers are more likely to be divorced or never married, which will result in lower retirement income and higher rates of poverty, they will have greater education and stronger labor force participation, which suggests higher earnings potential. The author examines the ramifications of the fact that despite their better educations and professional accomplishments, baby boomer women will need to work longer than their predecessors because of demographic factors, increased life expectancy, and the declining role of Social Security and private pension payouts.

Chapter 4, Page 35

“For boomer women, how financially secure they are likely to be as they age will be greatly influenced by their present and future housing choices.” Eric S. Belsky, Executive Director, and Rachel Drew, Research Analyst, Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University

In “Home Ownership: A Boon to Boomer Women,” Eric Belsky and Rachel Drew explore the often overlooked relationship between housing and the economic security for baby boomer women. The authors investigate the financial impact housing has on boomer women, including the advantages of home ownership versus renting, aging-in-place as opposed to moving, and other diverse alternative housing choices and solutions. Noting that many boomer women will not be able to afford housing cost burdens as they age, the authors advocate that there is an urgent need for a national public policy response to the economic security of aging baby boomer women that is built around housing.

Chapter 5, Page 45

“The Social Security system needs to be modernized to address the needs of the boomer generation of women and the generations of women following their path breaking footsteps.” Heidi Hartmann, President, Institute for Women’s Policy Research

Heidi Hartmann narrows the focus to how the nation’s Social Security system needs to be modernized to address the needs of baby boomer women and those Generation X, Y, and Millennium women who follow the boomers in her article “Social Security: Why Boomer Women Need More.” She analyzes how the Social Security system, developed in the 1930s, does not meet the needs of retiring baby boomer women. The author makes a case for improved Social Security benefits to address the “modern-day” needs of single women, low-income women, divorced women, and women who took time out from the workforce to care for their children or aging parents. She recommends creative policy solutions such as providing care giving credits and shortening the number of years of marriage required to receive spousal and survivor benefits.

Chapter 6, Page 53

“The message is that older boomer women will face the biggest challenge of their lives as they retire.” Dallas L. Salisbury, President and CEO, Employee Benefit Research Institute

In his article “Retiring by 65: Pipe Dream for Older Boomer Women?” Dallas Salisbury reviews recent research concerning the retirement security prospects of older baby boomer women. He examines the interrelated demographic and socioeconomic factors contributing to the disquieting prospect that older boomer women will face the biggest challenge of their lives as they retire. His findings suggest that unless national policies and individual consumption/savings patterns are changed, a significant number of boomer women, especially single women, will not be able to retire at 65 and meet their basic living expenses.

Chapter 7, Page 61

“The generation of women about to enter their 60s—the baby boomers—is staying young much longer than their mothers did by keeping active and taking care of their bodies. But they will age.” Mary Ruggie, Adjunct Professor of Public Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Mary Ruggie in her article “Fading Health, Fragile Health Policy: Will Shame Spur Action?” explores how well prepared our health care system is to meet the challenges of the aging baby boomer women. The author analyzes the nation’s health-care policies (including the Medicare and Medicaid programs) and builds a case for how these policies do not meet the financial and health-care needs of aging boomer women. With national policies shifting more responsibility on to the consumer to cover health and long-term care costs, baby boomer women can expect greater financial hardship in the elder years, particularly women from lower socioeconomic groups and racial/ethnic minorities.

Chapter 8, Page 69

“Compared with male retirees, female retirees will have lower wealth and incomes, higher poverty rates, and a larger share whose incomes are below 45 percent of the national average wage.” Barbara A. Butrica, Senior Research Associate, and Cori E. Uccello, Consultant, Urban Institute

Wealthier Retirement for Boomer Women?” by Barbara Butrica and Cori Uccello analyzes the economic retirement prospects for aging baby boomer women. The authors note that in absolute terms—measured by higher real household wealth and income, and lower poverty rates—boomer women will be better off than current retiree women. In relative terms, however, measured by post-retirement income relative to workers’ incomes and relative to pre-retirement income, boomer women will be no better off and in some cases, because of race and marital status, will be worse off than current retiree women. Boomer women will need to increase their savings or work longer if they desire to maintain their real living standards.

Chapter 9, Page 83

“Making retirement money last for life is particularly important to women because, on average, their retirement savings are smaller than men’s, and they have longer life spans over which to make the money last.” Virginia P. Reno, Vice President for Income Security Policy, National Academy of Social Insurance

Virginia Reno examines the Bush administration’s proposal for personal private accounts and the implications for boomer women’s retirements. In her article “Turning Personal Accounts into Secure Retirement Income: A Challenging Proposition for Boomer Women,” the author analyzes the four financial risks (longevity, survivorship, inflation, and investment) facing women in retirement. Compared with the new private accounts proposal, she describes how the present Social Security system better protects boomer women and recommends adjustments to the Social Security system to ensure its solvency.

Chapter 10, Page 93

“European Union countries already have compensatory mechanisms within national policies to ensure that time spent caring for children and older dependents, the majority of which is carried out by women, is compensated.” Sarah Harper, Director, Oxford Institute of Ageing, University of Oxford

Late Life Work, Retirement, and Social Security for European Women” by Sarah Harper analyzes how European boomer women deal with many retirement and employment challenges not faced by their Baby Boomer Women: Secure Futures or Not? counterparts in the United States. She examines how European women tend to live and work longer than men. Due to these bio-demographic and socioeconomic facts and the inequalities in the European Union pension systems, European women experience higher rates of poverty than men. The author identifies how the EU governments are addressing these inequalities by creative policies such as compensating women in the retirement systems for the time they spend caring for children and older dependents.

Chapter 11, Page 99

“The fate of boomer women could be worse than their predecessors’, as this generation spends more, acquires more debt, and is less likely to have traditional pensions, spousal benefits, or retiree health-care coverage.” Cindy Hounsell, President, Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement

Lastly, in her article “‘Out-of-Paycheck’ Retirement Programs: Will They Crack the Nest Egg for Baby Boomer Women?” Cindy Hounsell considers the adverse implications to baby boomer women’s financial futures as their generation spends more; saves less; acquires more debt; and is less likely to have traditional defined benefit pensions, spousal benefits, or retiree health-care coverage. The author examines how boomer women are more likely to be single, divorced, and widowed for a longer time than previous generations, and why older women are more likely to end their lives living in poverty. She recommends diverse strategies to boomer women to enable them to take control of their financial wellbeing and to plan for a longer retirement with more income.