Major Findings

The aging of America’s baby boomer women is the most urgent issue facing our nation in the 21st century. The follow are the major findings of Baby Boomer Women: Secure Futures or Not?:

1. While women are the majority of older Americans, policy makers have often overlooked their needs and long ignored the plight of women approaching retirement with insufficient resources. This needs to change quickly.

2. The fate of boomer women could be worse than their predecessors, as the boomer women spend more, acquire more debt, and are less likely to have traditional pensions, spousal benefits, or retiree health coverage.

3. Boomer women who are counting on “home equity extractions” to finance their current life styles and retirement futures may be in for a shock if/when housing values level off and decline. 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.

4. The US healthcare system is failing to meet the healthcare needs of aging boomer women. Women from lower socio-economic groups and racial/ethnic minorities are most vulnerable. American women live an average of 79.9 years, more than four years longer than men. Yet, according to the World Health Organization’s healthy life expectancy measure, American women are 29th in the world.

5. Making retirement money last for life is essential for boomer women because their savings are smaller than men’s, yet must last over longer life spans. Social Security protects against financial risks that retirees face: it pays benefits for life; the benefits keep up with inflation; widows’ benefits are automatic; and retirees do not bear investment risk. The Bush Administration’s proposal for personal accounts do not cover these risks.

6. If differences in poverty rates by sex, marital status and race continue, overall poverty rates among aging boomer women will considerably increase among future boomer retirees. Compared with male retirees, boomer women will have lower wealth and incomes, higher poverty rates, and a larger share whose incomes are below 45 percent of the average national wage.

7. Trends indicate that many boomer women will be working well into their 60s and beyond, challenging the concept of a traditional retirement age at 65. About 50% of all women are and will be working in low-paying jobs without pensions or other employer-sponsored retirement savings plans of any kind.

8. Boomer women as a group earn less than many men. In addition to increased housing expenses, a growing proportion of retiring boomer women will have to pay for their retirement health benefits. Given these facts, many boomer women will face daunting savings challenges before they reach retirement age. From 2020 to 2030, when older boomer women will be 64 to 74, they are projected to face an income shortfall of at least $400 billion dollars.

9. Social Security and pension plans are designed to work well for people with stable career employment, but not for those boomer women who interrupted their work years to care for children or loved ones. Women’s life histories and the way they interact with employer-sponsored benefit plans, individual savings and insurance plans, Social Security, and other social safety net programs often create financial shortfalls.

10. 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. Given the enormous gains in health and life expectancy, working longer is the only logical way for many women boomers to acquire much needed income.

11. Women’s increased participation in the workforce does not necessarily translate into a better retirement for most boomer women. Women need more retirement income but they usually have less — women working full-time are still earning only 76 percent of what men earn.

12. Women boomers will enter retirement with substantially different characteristics than women retirees of previous generations. They are more likely to be divorced or never married, but have greater education and stronger labor force participation. Despite the gains in their economic status, boomer women will receive relatively less from the retirement income system than their predecessors.

13. More than half of working women do not have access to pensions or other retirement plans. And those who are fortunate enough to have access to health and retirement plans are now contributing to those plans out of their smaller paychecks leaving them less money to save for the future.

14. For boomer women and those who follow them, it is important that women establish their own earnings records as early in their careers as possible. Despite the national trend of one parent families, the Social Security system rewards the old-fashioned family norm of the bread winner husband and the homemaker wife best.

For more information, please contact us at (617) 491-1171 or email us at