Thursday, September 15, 2011

New census data show divorce, widowhood are (no surprise) bad for women

"If there's anything worse than a woman living alone, it's a woman saying she likes it."  - Thelma Ritter, American actress, (1902-1969).

BY JULIA ANDERSON
The U.S. Census Bureau is out with new data on the impact of divorce and widowhood on women. While the information from 2009 is an update from prior years, the over all picture hasn't changed: Women fall behind financially when they lose a spouse. And during their working years women earn less money but are living longer and remarrying less often than men.

According to the Census Bureau marital status report, national rates of marriage in 2009 showed 19.1 marriages out of every 1,000 men in the population with 17.6 marriages for every 1,000 women.

Here's the big number: For every 1,000 Americans there were 3.5 instances of widowhood for men and 7.8 for women. That's more than twice as many women losing husbands as are men losing wives to death. It's a fact: Women outlive men and live on alone in their later years.

How about the economic "well-being" of those who experienced a recent marital event?
The Census Bureau said that women who divorced in 2009 were more likely to receive public assistance than recently divorced men. That's 23 percent of women who divorced versus only 15 percent of men.

In addition, women who divorced reported less household income than recently divorced men. For example, 27 percent of women who divorced in 2009 had less than $25,000 in annual household income compared with 17 percent of recently divorced men.

And finally, women who divorced were more likely than recently divorced men to be in poverty, 22 percent of women compared with 11 percent of men. So women who divorced were more than twice as likely to fall into poverty as men because of divorce.
Why should I care?
All of these statistics spell trouble for women in retirement. We earn less, live longer, are more likely to live in poverty after being widowed or divorced. And we're divorcing at a greater rate even if we've had a long-term marriage.

I am convinced that we need a national initiative to alert women to their need to save more for retirement. But in addition to that young women should be better informed about the world of work and what a lower-paying or part-time career path will mean later in their lives. They need to understand why women are more often the big losers in a divorce. No one seems to talk about divorce any more as a blight on society for what it does to women, children and the economy of the nation.

Modern social norms have women working half-time in lesser paying jobs, managing the kids and household. But no one talks about this "secondary" status and what it means in terms of retirement savings, losing a spouse and the long-term outlook for women in poverty.
Husbands and wives should talk candidly about what would happen when one of them dies.
There is a huge demographic tragedy slowly in the making as baby boomer women are forced to retire without the needed savings. Many friends of mine already are struggling to get their feet on the ground after widowhood or divorce. Being on your own emotionally is one thing, being on your own financially is very very scary. Check out the census data for yourself. It's not a pretty picture. Let's have a discussion!
Who's fault is it that women end up poor? Are we to blame or is it lack of education from our mothers, our teachers, our mentors?

How can we have a national discussion about the negatives of divorce? Is Dave Ramsey the only one talking about this?
What should women be doing for each other when it comes to mother-daughter marriage and divorce counseling? Are we telling our daughters what they need to know about money, investing, retirement?

What are you to doing to secure your own financial future....401(k), self-directed IRA savings account, stock investments? Are you looking out for yourself when it comes to money or do the kids' vacations coming first?
There is plenty of help available, click here.

FOR MORE:
After Full Lives Together, More Older Couples are Divorcing, click here.


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