Categorized | Sondra's Musings, Your Money

Early Feminism Didn’t Tout Financial Security Planning


I once believed that feminism would solve all issues of inequality. But, that was when I was a young, idealistic college student in the 1970s

By Sondra Shapiro

I once believed that feminism would solve all issues of inequality. But, that was when I was a young, idealistic college student in the 1970s.

Fifty years later, I am wiser.

While things are much better for working women, bias still remains.

A woman’s median salary is 78.6 percent of the median salary for a man, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity.

It’s true we have come a long way compared to 45 years ago when the pay gap was 58.8 percent, but in the last 10 years the wage disparity has remained relatively stagnant.

But, the cumalive affect cannot be ignored or changed for many women. The National Institute on Retirement Security, a nonprofit research center, reports that women are 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and older. Women age 75 to 79 are three times more likely.

While women have enjoyed progress in the workplace, traditional nurturing roles at home have changed little. Because women are often juggling work and family obligations, financial security in retirement suffers. Here are the facts: Women leave the workforce to raise children or care for a sick family member; there is a paucity of women in the highest-paid professions; and women typically earn lower wages than men.


According to a 2013 study “Juggling Current Priorities and Long-Term Security: Every Woman Needs Her Own Retirement Strategy,” 75 percent of women polled said they do not know as much as they should about retirement investing. The study, by Transamerica Center for Retirement, reveals that more than half of women do not have a retirement strategy, despite the fact that 56 percent of women expect to self fund their retirement through 401(k)s, retire-
ment accounts or other savings and investments. While the study only looked at women, and similar problems may hold true in the general population, there are factors unique to women that put them in a more precarious situation.

Because women live longer than men, they need to save more for retirement to cover expenses ranging from cost of living to healthcare. So it is concerning that 56 percent of women answered they had “guessed” when asked about how they arrived at their retirement savings needs.

“There is a striking disconnect among women between how they envision their retirement and how they are preparing to realize that vision,” said Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, which conducted the study. While more than half said they have some form of a retirement strategy, only 11 percent have it in writing. And, only 24 percent factored in costs associated with long-term care.

The center’s study sheds an alarming light on women’s attitudes and behaviors related to saving and planning for retirement.

The majority of women, 55 percent, are pre-occupied with paying off debt or focusing on basic living expenses, a behavior that men and women likely share in this weak economy. But, women are at a financial disadvantage to begin with, putting them more at risk in later years. Many women work only part-time because of other obligations, which means less money for savings and the likelihood that a part-time position doesn’t offer a retirement plan.

Though 53 percent of women plan to retire after age 65 or not at all, unforeseen circumstances could put the kibosh on a plan to work after traditional retirement age. A person could lose a job, get sick, or family issues could preclude working.

Family obligation is the fundamental reason women plan to continue working past retirement age. Twenty-six percent fear not being able to meet the financial needs of their family. Twenty-eight percent have taken time out of the workforce to act as caregiver for a child or aging parent — 73 percent of these caregivers believe that this time away will impact their ability to save for retirement. Thirty-one percent of the women interviewed reported they expect to provide financial support for a family member other than their spouse.

“Despite unique challenges that women face, there are important opportunities within reach that can help them improve their retirement outlook, such as getting savvy about saving and investing,” said Collinson.

Transamerica Center for Retirement offers the following points for women to follow to ensure retirement readiness:

•Develop a retirement strategy and write it down.

•Calculate your retirement savings needs — and save at a level to achieve those needs.

•Consider retirement benefits as part of your total compensation. If your employer doesn’t offer you a plan, ask for one.

•If your employer offers a plan, participate and defer as much income as you can.

•Get educated about retirement investing. Seek professional assistance if needed.

•Have a backup plan in the event you are unable to work up to your planned retirement.

•Talk about retirement with family and close friends. An open dialogue with trusted love ones about expectations of either needing to provide or receive financial support should be part of every woman’s retirement strategy.

As a young idealist 50 years ago, I, like many women of my generation, was most concerned about equal rights in the workplace. We thought we could do it all and, as it turns out, didn’t look at the future realistically. This study shows that family responsibilities still ended up taking priority.

We have made strides in terms of acceptance — though we still have a ways to go. Now the conversation should be how we can empower ourselves into old age. It will take individual perseverance. And as Collinson said, as a society, “we must equip women with the know-how to plan, save and ultimately achieve a secure retirement.”

Sondra Shapiro is the publisher of Fifty Plus Life. She can be reached at Read more at Follow her at

One Response to “Early Feminism Didn’t Tout Financial Security Planning”

  1. Male Matters says:

    Women control most of the wealth in the U.S. and make most of the buying decisions.
    As for the wage gap:

    Probably most of women’s pay-equity advocates think employers are greedy profiteers who’d hire only illegal immigrants for their lower labor cost if they could get away with it. Or move their business to a cheap-labor country to save money. Or replace older workers with younger ones for the same reason. So why do these same advocates think employers would NOT hire only women if, as they say, employers DO get away with paying females at a lower rate than males for the same work?

    Here’s one of countless examples showing that some of the most sophisticated women in the country choose to earn less while getting paid at the same rate as their male counterparts:

    “In 2011, 22% of male physicians and 44% of female physicians worked less than full time, up from 7% of men and 29% of women from Cejka’s 2005 survey.”

    A thousand laws won’t close that gap.

    In fact, no law yet has closed the gender wage gap — not the 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not affirmative action (which has benefited mostly white women, the group most vocal about the wage gap –, not the 1991 amendments to Title VII, not the 1991 Glass Ceiling Commission created by the Civil Rights Act, not the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, not diversity, not the countless state and local laws and regulations, not the thousands of company mentors for women, not the horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and not the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which is another feel-good bill that turned into another do-nothing law (good intentions do not necessarily make things better; sometimes, the path to a worse condition is paved with good intentions)…. Nor will a “paycheck fairness” law work.

    That’s because women’s pay-equity advocates, who always insist one more law is needed, continue to overlook the effects of female AND male behavior:

    Despite the 40-year-old demand for women’s equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of “The Secrets of Happily Married Women,” stay-at-home wives, including the childless who represent an estimated 10 percent, constitute a growing niche. “In the past few years,” he says in a CNN report at, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (“Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier….” at If indeed a higher percentage of women is staying at home, perhaps it’s because feminists and the media have told women for years that female workers are paid less than men in the same jobs — so why bother working if they’re going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman.)

    As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Answer: Because they’re supported by their husband, an “employer” who pays them to stay at home. (Far more wives are supported by a spouse than are husbands.)

    The implication of this is probably obvious to most 12-year-olds but seems incomprehensible to or is ignored by feminists and the liberal media: If millions of wives are able to accept NO wages, millions of other wives, whose husbands’ incomes vary, are more often able than husbands to:

    -accept low wages
    -refuse overtime and promotions
    -choose jobs based on interest first, wages second — the reverse of what men tend to do
    -take more unpaid days off
    -avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining (
    -work fewer hours than their male counterparts, or work less than full-time instead of full-time (as in the above example regarding physicians)

    Any one of these job choices lowers women’s median pay relative to men’s. And when a wife makes one of the choices, her husband often must take up the slack, thereby increasing HIS pay.

    Women who make these choices are generally able to do so because they are supported — or, if unmarried, anticipate being supported — by a husband who feels pressured to earn more than if he’d chosen never to marry. (Married men earn more than single men, but even many men who shun marriage, unlike their female counterparts, feel their self worth is tied to their net worth.) This is how MEN help create the wage gap: as a group they tend more than women to pass up jobs that interest them for ones that pay well.

    More in “Will the Ledbetter Act Help Women?” at


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