Joan Fradella, a family and divorce mediator with Divorce thru Mediation, Inc. in West Palm Beach, Fla., has been saving for retirement on a regular basis.
But it's not her Golden Years she's worried about.
"I'll end up O.K., just maybe with not as much money as I should have," she states. "But my Aunt Marie is 87, and in poverty through no fault of her own. She was widowed at the age of 27 with two small children. She worked all her life in the garment industry as a piece worker, for low pay, until retirement."
Fradella notes that, widowed at such a young age, her aunt didn't have anything saved for retirement by her or her husband. "She lives on Social Security, and now has a reverse mortgage on her townhouse to supplement," Fradella adds. "She never remarried. Her living son has never been in a position to help her. She had so many strikes against her: being widowed so young, being skilled but not educated, not remarrying, unable to put away money. She blames no one, regrets nothing. It is just what is."
Fradella's Aunt Marie could easily be a composite of millions of women in retirement, single or otherwise, who simply don't have enough income and assets to make ends meet.
There is no shortage of struggling American women in that regard.
According to a brand new study out from the National Institute on Retirement Security, 80% of U.S. women in retirement are more likely to be "impoverished" than men. A big key to that retirement risk short fall is income (specifically, lack of it) for women in their later years.
The NIRS study notes women age 65 and older have an income that's 25% lower than men. "As men and women age, men's income advantage widens to 44% by age 80 and older," the study says. "Consequently, women were 80% more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and older, while women age 75 to 79 were three times more likely to fall below the poverty level as compared to their male counterparts."
U.S. economic, political, and investment leaders do know about the gender-based retirement income gap -- they just don't see any significant momentum going to alleviate the problem.
"It's well documented that the nation faces a retirement savings crisis, but the pain is particularly severe for women because we need a bigger retirement nest egg than men thanks to our longer life expectancy," explains Diane Oakley, NIRS executive director. "This new data is troubling -- it shows that a woman's nest egg is substantially smaller than a man's and that we're not making real headway toward closing the retirement gender gap."