Women In The Workforce

What Women Say About Their Finances & Retirement

American women report economic stress, worry about how they will afford future health costs and retirement

A national survey of women ages 25+, commissioned by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, finds strong bipartisan support for improving Medicare to cover home care and treatment for chronic diseases. View report findings here.

ARLINGTON, Va., April 16, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — A national survey of women ages 25+, commissioned by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER), finds that American women continue to face significant economic stress, and they are concerned about how to pay for health care and other daily expenses in retirement. Across demographic and party lines, women express strong bipartisan support for federal policy solutions that could help.

For the second year in a row, What Women Say: Insights and Policy Solutions for Lifelong Security asked women about their financial situation today and how they feel about their future. This year’s survey also included a new set of questions about women’s health. The online poll—conducted by the bipartisan team of Public Opinion Strategies and Lake Research Partners—also explored women’s support for 12 potential policy solutions.

Key Survey Findings:

  • Half of women say they feel “uncertain” or “worried” when they think about how prepared they are for health costs later in life, and low-income and rural women report challenges to staying healthy today.
  • Compared to 2023, fewer women consider themselves financially secure, and they are not confident about how to plan and save for retirement, with the cost of housing and cuts to Medicare and Social Security being top concerns.
  • Of 12 federal policies tested, the most important for women are providing government assistance for low-income adults, improving Medicare and Medicaid to cover home care, and expanding Medicare to cover the full range of treatments for chronic diseases.

“Health and financial security are the bedrocks of a good quality of life—regardless of age,” said Ramsey Alwin, NCOA President and CEO. “It’s troubling to hear that women across the lifespan—especially those with lower incomes—continue to struggle, making it extremely difficult for them to prepare for retirement. We must do more to ensure every woman has the resources to age well.”

“The survey points to ways we can change women’s retirement prospects,” said Cindy Hounsell, President of WISER. “We can remove the barriers and improve the safety net that so many low- and moderate-income women depend on. We can increase access to retirement plans and provide outreach and information to help women improve their financial decision-making. Clearly, we must begin to make the future more secure for women of all ages and incomes.”

Key Health Findings

Women are candid about their fears and concerns when it comes to their health.

  • From a list of words, women select “uncertain” and “worried” the most when asked how prepared they are for health costs later in life.
  • Women rate their general health worse than their mental health, and low-income and rural women rate their general and mental health a net negative.
  • In the past year, roughly 1 in 3 women report having experienced delays in access to health care or food insecurity issues, and 1 in 5 report delays in filling prescription medicines.
  • Women view having a low-income as the most negative influence on a person’s health. Being a woman, having a low education, and being Black or Hispanic are also viewed as net negatives.

Key Financial Security Findings

For the second year in a row, American women report substantial economic stress.

  • Less than half (49%) of women and only one-third of rural women report having saved for retirement.
  • Majorities report they are not financially secure, including 79% of low-income women and 67% of rural women.
  • Low-income White and Hispanic women report their financial security to be worse compared to last year.
  • More than 7 in 10 low-income women say they are not confident about their ability to plan and save for retirement.
  • Roughly one-third of all women and half (49%) of low-income women say their retirement income or savings will not be enough to pay their monthly bills—an increase from 2023.

“Nearly 6 in 10 (59%) women and 81% of low-income women told us they do not make enough money right now to save for retirement,” said Bill McInturff, Partner at Public Opinion Strategies. “Food insecurity also is a reality for about half of low-income Hispanic and White women. These facts directly impact a woman’s ability to plan and save for retirement.”

Support For Policy Solutions

The survey asked women to express their level of support for 12 potential policy solutions, understanding that these new solutions would likely have a cost associated with them and may require new federal government spending or reductions in spending on other federal programs in order to pay for them. Across party and demographic lines, vast majorities of women supported the solutions. The top 8 include:

Medicare Proposals

  • Expand Medicare coverage, so beneficiaries have access to the full range of care and treatments for serious chronic diseases. (69% strongly support, 95% total support)
  • Improve Medicare and Medicaid to better ensure that older adults have the option to receive care at home rather than having to go into a nursing home. (68% strongly support, 94% total support)
  • Strengthen Medicare efforts to help low-income older adults sign up for benefits they are eligible for but are not currently receiving. (67% strongly support, 94% total support)
  • Strengthen Medicare by adding health promotion and disease prevention programs to help people better manage their chronic diseases, lessen their risk of falls, and reduce social isolation. (65% strongly support, 94% total support)

Non-Medicare Proposals

  • Provide a tax break to family caregivers to help cover the out-of-pocket costs of providing care to a seriously ill, disabled, or elderly loved one. (66% strongly support, 96% total support)
  • Modernize and update the federal Supplemental Security Income program that pays monthly benefits to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or age 65 or older. (66% strongly support, 94% total support)
  • Provide government assistance to lower income older adults to help pay for basic needs, such as food, housing, and transportation. (64% strongly support, 93% total support)
  • Address elder care and disability care workforce shortages by ensuring that home care workers receive a livable and competitive wage of at least $18-$20/per hour along with health insurance, retirement, and other key employment benefits. (62% strongly support, 92% total support)

“For six of the policy proposals we tested in 2023 and 2024, the intensity of support increased,” said Celinda Lake, President, Lake Research Partners. “Clearly, women know what they need, and they are likely to vote with these issues in mind.”

 

 

 

Methodology
This research was conducted online March 2-13, 2024 by Public Opinion Strategies and Lake Research Partners. The national mixed mode survey included 1,022 women ages 25 and older with oversamples of rural women (n=314) and low-income women by ethnicity (White=260, Black=241, Hispanic=203). The survey asked respondents to identify if they were Republican, Independent, or Democrat. “Low-income” was defined as an individual with $25,000 in income per year ($50,000 for two or more people in a household), self-identify as lower income, working class, or middle class, and either do not have any retirement savings or have retirement savings of $5,000 or less.
About NCOA
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is the national voice for every person’s right to age well. We believe that how we age should not be determined by gender, color, sexuality, income, or ZIP code. Working with thousands of national and local partners, we provide resources, tools, best practices, and advocacy to ensure every person can age with health and financial security. Founded in 1950, we are the oldest national organization focused on older adults. Learn more at www.ncoa.org and @NCOAging.
About WISER
WISER is a nonprofit organization that works to help women, educators, and policymakers understand the important issues surrounding women’s retirement income. As the only organization to focus exclusively on the unique financial challenges that women face, WISER supports women’s opportunities to secure adequate retirement income through research, programs, and partnerships. WISER has also been the driving force behind a series of state and local events on long-term financial security aimed at leveling the playing field for women. Learn more at www.wiserwomen.org.