For several years I worked as a volunteer for the local food bank. It supplied those in need with weekly baskets of food and other necessities of life. It was very special to help, and I have numerous memories of that time. I met many people who wanted nothing more than to be of help to others and to support our small-town community.
I especially liked the female volunteers who cheerfully greeted those in need and helped with the food baskets. There was always such a feeling of community with them, and many became friends.
Over the 7 years I helped there, I realized that a change was taking place. Many of the women that volunteered morphed into those who needed the help, needed the food baskets. What happened?
To place the reason was not easy, and it was, in a sense embarrassing for those who helped to become those who are in need. In most of the cases, a spouse had died, and with that event, income was severely reduced, and a lifestyle was lowered. One woman, in particular, named Louise, was a retired teacher, her husband was also a retired teacher, and with their pensions and social security, life was fine. But remove half of the income, and things changed. Louise and her husband have raised children, helped their church and their community, and when he died, things changed.
I remember the day she came for food; she was in tears, and she needed friends. Of course, everyone helped, but the humiliation of that event shook her as well as the rest of us. How could this have happened? They had been retired for about 18 years, their retirement, in the beginning, was more than enough, but with inflation, tax increases, and covering for medical expenses leftover from a lowering of medical reimbursements, it all took a toll.
Louise is not the only one, and there are millions of women just like her who are in need and living in the shadows. Consider what retirement should be, to live well, and with comfort, how many Louises’ have seen their dream turn black? Women, in general, make less money, translating to less money to put aside for retirement resulting in a more significant portion of the poverty population. And, women live longer than men, which statistically translates to less available retirement income.
According to a Boston College blog (link below), more than half of the women employed full-time or part-time in the private sector are not saving in a retirement plan at any given time. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but many don’t have a 401(k) at their jobs or aren’t eligible to save, often because they are self-employed or work part-time.
More information can be found at Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research Squared Away Blog. Here is the link: https://squaredawayblog.bc.edu/squared-away/oldest-women-often-poor-need-a-hand/
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