December 09,2014

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Wyden Calls for Strengthened Social Security for Women

Finance Chairman Outlines Numerous Ideas to Close Gap Between Men and Women

WASHINGTON –Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., at a hearing today said Social Security must do more to support women in retirement, whose savings often lag behind men’s due to lower average earnings and a greater likelihood to leave the workforce.

“Instead of living the worry-free ideal of retirement, many women are struggling to make ends meet – to pay for groceries or keep their homes heated this winter,” Wyden said.  “The lag in women’s savings in retirement is a growing crisis fed by a confluence of factors that don’t begin at age 65 – they start much earlier. Today’s hearing kicks into high gear the effort to strengthen the safety net and give women greater financial security in retirement.”

Women earn about 78 cents on the dollar compared to men and are more likely to leave a job or cut back on hours to care for children or parents. As a result, their savings grow at slower rates. Far more women are dependent on Social Security for nearly all of their income in retirement than men, and because they live longer, their savings have to stretch further.

Wyden raised a number of possible steps to ensure women have an adequate level of savings going into retirement, including boosting benefits for women who outlive their spouses, caregiver credits for people who leave the workforce to take care of a loved one, closing the gap between disabled widows or widowers and other who receive disability benefits, and revising student benefit eligibility rules and removing gender bias so couples and their children receive equal benefits.

Witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing included Barbara Perrin, a Social Security beneficiary from Eugene, Ore.; Catherine Dodd, chair of the board of directors of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare; Sita Nataraj Slavov, professor of public policy and George Mason University and visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; and Janet Barr, an actuary testifying on behalf of the American Academy of Actuaries. Their written testimony is available here.

The full text of Wyden’s opening remarks is available here. The video is available here.