Women and Social Security

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One of the guiding principles in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution is to "promote the general welfare." We'd be hard-pressed to name a program that achieves that goal more effectively than Social Security.

Today -- 80 years after FDR signed the Social Security Act -- Social Security continues to be one of the nation's most successful, effective, and popular programs. It's by far the most effective anti-poverty program in the United States.

Critical to Women's Retirement Security

While Social Security is important to all Americans, it is even more so to women. Women rely more on income from Social Security than men do. And older women are at greater risk of being poor: in 2013, of those 65+, more than twice as many women as men lived in poverty.

  • Women make up more than half of all beneficiaries age 62+, and around two-thirds of beneficiaries age 85+.
  • Without Social Security, nearly half of women 65+ would be poor.
  • Women have longer life expectancies than men, so they live more years into retirement and run a higher risk of exhausting their savings.
  • Women are less likely than men to have a pension, and their pensions are likely to be smaller than men's, due to earning lower wages or spending time out of the workforce to serve as caregivers.
  • Unlike pensions, Social Security benefits are adjusted for inflation and last for the lifetime.

Did you know...

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Widespread Support

Americans of all ages continue to have strong feelings of support for Social Security. An AARP survey conducted in conjunction with Social Security's 80th anniversary showed Social Security remains popular across generations and political ideologies:

  • 66 percent of Americans believe Social Security is one of the most important government programs.
  • Four in five adults rely on Social Security, or plan to rely on it, as a source of retirement income.
  • 82 percent of Americans believe it's important to contribute to Social Security for the common good.
  • 90 percent of adults under age 30 believe Social Security is an important government program, and 85 percent want to know it will be there when they retire.

OWL Recommends

We recognize that maintaining and strengthening Social Security is critical to ensuring the financial security of older women and their families.

These aspects of the program are particularly important to women and should be protected:
  • Eligibility for Social Security benefits through work and marriage;
  • Progressive benefit formula;
  • Cost of living increases;
  • Payments that last for the lifetime.

We recommend strengthening the program by:

  • Creating an improved minimum benefit;
  • Allowing credit for years spent care-giving;
  • Raising the payroll tax cap that has been kept artificially low because of stagnant wages*;
  • Providing equal benefits for married same-sex couples, and
  • Improving the current cost of living adjustment by adopting the Consumer Price Index --CPI-E (for "elderly"), an alternative, experimental index maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that is more sensitive to retirees' spending.