cff WOMEN ARE RETIRING POOR IN AMERICA | Simple and Serene Living


Friday, August 4, 2023

This is a repost of a post I wrote two years ago. 

It has been updated to reflect any changes I have made in my life.


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.

woman studying

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 Determined

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.

woman holding cash

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. 

woman washing window

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 last year was about the big increase that is expected for Social Security in 2022. They estimated 6%. Here is what that means. For someone who is making $2500 a year in Social Security that raise means an extra $150. For a woman who makes $800 a year in Social Security that raise is $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.

fresh vegetables

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 twelve-year-old car with 134,000 miles on it break down? 

It did break down this year and cost 3100 dollars to repair. 

How long will that money last? My family is long-lived and I will need to stretch it out. 

coins spilling out of a jar

In the past, I have supplemented my income by selling online, but I have found I no longer have the energy to keep that up the way I was doing.

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. 

As I seem to have more time on my hands these days I intend to start advocating for reform for women and Social Security. Not sure how much effect I will have, but I will keep you informed.

women retiring poor in america


  1. I so get this. It is a huge anxiety for me. I raised and homeschooled our daughter working till 2006. I also took care of the home and my husband. But yes, I feel like we're left to the wolves if something were to happen to my husband. He is 67 and can't retire. He is tired for sure. Utterly crazy for being the biblical wife and whom all here worked so hard.

  2. I can personally relate . Love this blog.

  3. I feel for you Laura. My social security I get is so low and there is no way I could live on that if I were single and by myself. It probably wouldn't even cover rent in our area. I saw this with my mom when she lost her husband and his kids took everything. She was left with her social security alone and barely could live even with living in senior living. I had to help her with her bills and medications. I worked as a nurse for many years and then stayed home to raise my two girls. Then went back only part time after my girls were in school. That is why I do not receive that much. I see so many women in their 70's still working because they are widowed or divorced and living single they cannot make it on social security alone. Something has to change with the SS system.

  4. I left the workforce when my first baby was born, expecting to go back, shortly after and never did. Under the current system, my financial worth is very small, not livable I'm sure.

  5. This is such a travesty for women who spent many many years being homemakers and raising their kids! There should have been and should be now, benefits for the woman who is a stay at home mom and supports her family and husband... it should somehow be a paid job and registered with social security for all those years. Thankfully I worked for 45 years, but they were low paying jobs so my SS was still not enough to support me. I don't know what I would have done without my husband... I worked even part-time until I was about 72... I may still need to get another part-time job! Now that my husband has passed, I do receive his SS which was more than mine. I'm so thankful for that! I don't know what I would have done.. probably taken to living in my Van.. and that's not a joke. MANY older women, up into their 80's are living in their small RV's vans or even cars. It's such a shame and this country needs to shape up and care for all the women (and some men maybe) who supported their families for all those years and never received any compensation or will not receive SS. It's such an injustice. Kudos to YOU for planning to take it on and see what one person can do! xoxo Marilyn

  6. I remember when you originally posted this. Yes, something is very wrong. Much credit to you for trying to make a difference.

  7. I'm a Canadian in the same predicament. Luckily I'm in a retirement cottage which is affordable and will remain so. However, I have little savings, a 10 year old car and the cost of groceries here in Newfoundland is one of the highest in the country. Day by day and step by step! But yes; governments should take into account all the years women have devoted to be at home Moms.


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