Photo by Peter Dahlgren
When I saw a link to an article titled 5 Ways Retirement Is Different For Women I hoped to see a profound insight or two in the article. Unfortunately what I got was proof of how broken our cultural views are related to families. There’s no way to argue the facts behind the 5 points in the article:
- Women live longer.
- Women are more likely to fly solo in their later years.
- Stepping out of the work force is easy; stepping back in is not.
- Retired women are poorer than retired men.
- Part-time work rarely leads to a solid retirement.
The point of #3 is that women pay an ongoing price if they step out of the workforce to rear children. My immediate thought was, “great, let’s keep convincing women that raising children is a burden on their lives.” When it went on to say that taking time to care for aging parents can be even worse financially than taking time to raise children it clearly suggested that families are a financial burden.
Points 4 and 5 were really sad because they would be completely non-issues if we had a culture of lasting marriages rather than a culture of disposable marriages. As I thought how lasting marriages would affect each of these points I realized that healthy, loving families mitigate all five issues listed in the article. Let’s see how.
Retired women are poorer than retired men.
This whole point implies that men and women are planning their retirements independently. That makes sense for those who are single but for married people the solution is to stay married and plan for retirement together.
I was especially disappointed by the self-righteous conclusion to this point:
This is a result of the continuing gender wage disparity. How is it that we are even still talking about it after all these years? Equal pay for equal work.
Apparently the author didn’t read her own preceding point in which she noted the ways that women in aggregate weren’t doing equal work over the course of their careers as men in aggregate. Looking at individual cases it’s quite likely that a woman who never stopped to raise a family or care for aging parents, in other words one who was doing work equal to her male counterparts, would be making the same pay these days as her male counterparts and thus would have comparable resources for retirement.
Part-time work rarely leads to a solid retirement.
This is very much a reprise of the previous point. Women who work(ed) primarily part-time are almost universally those who either are married, were married, or should have been married. In all these cases a culture of healthy lasting marriages would mean they were not alone when facing the costs of retirement – they would have the benefit of the full-time work that their husband had done throughout the years where they were doing part time work or stepping out of the workforce temporarily to take care of more important things.
Stepping out of the work force is easy; stepping back in is not.
The reason that stepping back into the workforce is not easy is largely because in professional spheres we undervalue the work done at home (this is true for both men and women – it’s just that women generally do more of that undervalued work). If we properly valued families we would recognize how that experience of running a household and volunteering in the community built skills that are very valuable in the professional world.
As far as making the choice to step out of the workforce – when making calculations for retirement a healthy family-oriented culture would recognize that the time spent raising children was directly contributing to a personal support system for your aging years.
Women are more likely to fly solo in their later years.
A family oriented culture wouldn’t encourage children to disconnect from their parents or warn them away from caring for their parents in their aging years lest they impede their own financial preparation for retirement. Instead women who had raised a family wouldn’t face the prospect of flying solo – they would virtually always have children and grandchildren to travel with, hang out with, and even live with. Not only that but a healthy culture that values the wisdom of previous generations would support seniors even if they weren’t related to them. (See this recent Wednesday Audience from Pope Francis for more insights into such a culture.)
Women live longer.
At first I thought that this was the one issue that wasn’t affected by having a healthy family culture but as I thought about it I realized that with a healthy family culture there was no real downside to having elderly women who could spend a few extra years (2.3 on average) being loved and cared for by their family members and if families take care of each other across the generations and plan not as individuals but as family units then they would prepare for those extra few years with grandma after grandpa was gone.