SOCIAL SECURITY AND WOMEN RETIRING POOR IN AMERICA

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

This is a post I have wanted to write for a long time, but it is difficult for me because it is very personal. Healthy Habits For A Happier Life will return next week.

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My Story

If you have read my blog for a while you know that I am a former counselor, but what you may not know is that I was a stay-at-home mom for much of my adult life. 

Like many women, I chose to devote my time to raising my children. 

It was what I had always wanted to do and I don't regret a moment of that, but what I didn't know is what would happen to me when my husband became seriously mentally ill and how it would eventually affect me.


basket of books

In my mid-forties, I went back to school completed my last two years of college and did three years of graduate school in counseling psychology. 

I worked for several years, but I found out it wasn't enough. When I reached the age of 62 I took social security because I had crippling knee pain. I had both of my knees replaced, but found that ageism is alive and well and I was unemployable. 

Here is what I discovered about Social Security and why I was left living in poverty. 

How Social Security Is Figured

Social Security is based on your lifetime earnings. Your actual earnings are adjusted or “indexed” to account for changes in average wages since the year the earnings were received. Then Social Security calculates your average indexed monthly earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most.

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This is where the problem arises for women who spent much of their adult lives being caretakers for their children and then often of their elderly parents. 

Being Out Of The Workforce

Being a caregiver is not seen as work by our government. Stay at home caregivers are basically free labor. (The government loves that. Free labor means no Social Security.)

For example, if a woman spends 25 years of her life working in her home, where she is unpaid, those years are indexed as zero income. They are then averaged with the ten years she worked outside the home. 

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For women, like myself, who are no longer in a stable marriage, those years of taking care of a family leave them living in poverty. 

Women should not have to sit around like the grim reaper, waiting for ex husbands to die in order to have enough money to survive.

Social Security Raises

The big talk this year is about the big increase that is expected for Social Security in 2022. They are estimating 6%. Here is what that means. For someone who is making $2500 a year in Social Security that raise will mean an extra $150. For a woman who makes $800 a year in Social Security that raise will be $48.

Out of that raise, there is usually an increase in Medicare, and if you are fortunate enough to have gotten into senior subsidized housing (of which there is an extreme shortage and long waitlists) 30% of that raise will go to the government as an increase in your rent. 

There are approximately 30 million women over the age of 60 in this country and approximately 17.3% of them are living in poverty. That means that over 5 million older women in this country are living in poverty.

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These women have to make decisions on whether to eat or pay for their medications.

As you can see it is not a small problem and it is one that needs to be addressed. We need Social Security reform.

I try to do my part by making phone calls to government officials, but I am just one person.

My Continuing Story 


I am fortunate to have received a small inheritance from my mother which gives me a little cushion for emergencies, but every day is a worry. 

Will my ten-year-old car with 128,000 miles on it break down? How will I pay for the oral surgery I had last week? How can I help my seriously ill daughter who relies on disability? How long will that money last? My family is long-lived and I will need to stretch it out. 

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I am also fortunate that I am healthy enough both physically and mentally to be able to learn new things that will hopefully keep me going financially.

This is why I sell on Etsy and have become an influencer for LTK and Amazon. I would love to retire and spend my days reading, gardening, and traveling, but those are luxuries I can't afford.

It is why I have to work to build my income, and why I am going to add a Saturday Shopping post to my blog. I frankly need the income to survive. 

I am not alone. There are millions of us. If you know an older woman who is struggling I hope that you will reach out a helping hand to them. 

social security and women


Thanks for reading my very long post today. 

Until we meet again join me on PinterestInstagramLTK, and Etsy.


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Comments

  1. Very good information, Laura. You are so right. Women tend to get stiffed by the government because of staying home with children. And in your cause, a very sick child. I'm sorry this has happened. I wish I knew what to do.
    Brenda

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  2. Hi Laura. This was very well written and so telling how sad it is we live in this wealthy country and yet many women in retirement years are living at a poverty level. I stayed home and raised my two girls and if I was not married and had to rely on SS alone I would not be able to even make rent. I know of another blogger that lives on $750 a month and barely has enough to eat and get her medications. I send her gift cards anonymously when I can to help her out. That should not be the answer!!! There should be credit for the years women spent in the home raising children. Wishing you the best with advertising and selling on Etsy. I am so sorry you are in this place Laura. Just so sad. xoxo Kris

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    1. Well, after this Texas fiasco, we know that women are nothing but vessels to have children in the eyes of the old white men currently running things.

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  3. Hi,
    I am new to your blog, thru, Diane of Lavender Dreams.
    Thank you so much for sharing this information with me. I too have been a stay at home mom and a homeschool mom. This is something I will need to sit down and discuss with my husband.
    Carla

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  4. Great topic, Laura and thank you for sharing your story. I was one of those who stayed home to raise children, too, though I did work PT off and on during those years.

    My mother is 81 years old and is still having to work PT just to make ends meet. She became a widow at the young age of 58. Her townhome is paid off but between the HOA fees, property taxes and the general cost of living, her retirement income isn't enough to keep her afloat. She never complains about still having to work though - she actually likes it! She works PT as a receptionist at the company she retired from. She's in fantastic health, so it all works out, but still...there's a part of me who still thinks an 81 year old should not have to be working just to make ends meet.

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  5. This is why I advise all the younger women I know to keep a toe in the employment pool. Keep those skills up. Keep your networks active. Protect yourself financially. You just never know.

    I had put my husband through law school early in our marriage and became a SAHM. Years later he left and I discovered he had a lying, cheating double life with various addictions, and divorced him. He fought me with dirty tricks and tried to impoverish me and the kids. But he was court-ordered to pay me spousal support until Social Security starts. Unfortunately for me, a few years after the divorce he got sick, stopped practicing and stopped paying me support, let everything he had go into foreclosure, and moved 1000 miles away. I hear he's in an assisted living facility now, and I will never see the $$$$$ he owes me. But I have freedom and peace of mind with him and his abusiveness gone. I eventually found employment with benefits, raised my kids to be responsible adults, and have been very, very frugal. I discovered the ex wasn't paying taxes either (self-employed) so half of his SS probably won't even be equal to my piddly SS now. I will work at least until FRA - full retirement age, and continue to be very frugal.

    My lesson: kind, empathetic, giving people need to be smart and make sure they take care of themselves - there are too many users and takers out there who have no morals, and see you as their victim. When you were raised by good people, you don't realize how bad some people really are. You can't get your years of life back. Hang in there, fellow 60-somethings!

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    1. Oh, and I have a 20-year old car with 178,000 miles on it, so I understand that as well.

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  6. It's quite frightening to know about SS. I remember a few years ago my husband looked at what I would get in case something happened to him.

    Thank goodness he has a fantastic life insurance. Also when we were first married he took a disability plan.

    If he tried at age 40 he would have been turned down at that age.

    We have in home nursing and things like that.

    I don't like to talk or think about something happening to him

    We have been together most of my life

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  7. This was an excellent, and important post, Laura. So many people are uninformed, or misinformed. As you rightly point out, it's crucial to know that our elected officials represent our best interests and needs. Yes, you are just one person calling government officials, but you've hopefully just enlightened a lot of other women who can do the same. Then there's letter writing and phone-banking at election times to help explain to people one on one what's at stake when they vote for certain people.

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  8. Women do end up being penalized for working as a SAHM. Couples should be aware of this and plan accordingly. if I had to live on my SSN only, I would be part of the poverty ranks. I'm thankful

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  9. Thanks for this informative article. It is the nudge I need to get more informed about what my personal situation will be.

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  10. Loved your article, I also spent much of my marriage life taking care of the kids and working part time. Thankfully with my hubndad income I don’t have this problem. But I would if we got divorced which we almost did. Since we worked out our marriage I am one of the lucky ones. Women get the short end of the stick Its hard to work full time when day care is so expensive. Women are caught between a rock in a hard place.

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  11. Great article Laura. My sister is experiencing ageism now and it's heartbreaking to see her go through. She quit her job to take care of our mother full time (she had alzheimers). My sister's been told countless times that she's not 'marketable' because she was out of the workforce so long. It's a sad testament to the society we live in that raising kids and caring for parent is not valued as work. I wish you every success with LTK!

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  12. Very important information about women over 60 living in poverty. What can be done to rectify this horrific situation?

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