Tuesday, April 25, 2006

More Working Women Find They Can't Afford to Retire

There's a very depressing story in yesterday's edition of the Chicago Tribune, entitled More Working Women Find They Can't Afford to Retire. It's a sad reality that women tend to get the short end of the stick.

Finances force them to stay on job or return to work because they've earned less, live longer.

Women's lifetime earnings look different on average than those of men. Women are concentrated in low-wage or part-time jobs and can lack experience dealing with financial matters. They are more apt to drop out of the workforce to be a caregiver, resulting in more meager assets. Such reasons help explain why older women are flocking to job fairs and filling out applications in record numbers, experts say."

For men, working past retirement has been more of a `want to,' but for women, it's a `have to,'" said Jacquelyn James, director of research of the Center for Work and Family at Boston College.

I'm grateful that my boss and my boss' boss are both women. And they continue to fight for gender equality in the workplace. But many female workers are not as fortunate as I am. As a single person in her mid 30s, I've long since given up the romantic notion that some prince charming would fall head over heels in love with me and take care of me for life. And even if I were married, the reality is that one out of two marriages in the U.S. eventually end in divorce.

But the women who were profiled in this article came from an earlier generation, when the social contract was a bit different. They got married, had some kids, left the workforce, with the expectation that their husbands would take care of the household's finances and save up for the couple's retirement. Sigh. My heart goes out to those women. But it also strengthens my resolve to not wind up like them. I expect to work during retirement, not because I have to, but because I want to.

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