Women who work full-time, year-round, made just 79 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts in 2014, U.S. Census Bureau data show.
But the injustice of the gender pay gap also impacts retirement security.
A woman who works full-time over a 40-year period loses $435,480 in lifetime income (today’s dollars) due to the wage gap, according to the National Women’s Law Center, a nonprofit legal and advocacy group.
The income gap translates directly to lower income from Social Security and pensions — since those benefits are determined by wage history — and it hampers the capacity of women to save for retirement. And since women typically live longer than men, savings often must be stretched across more years of retirement.
“When you put together all these factors, it’s not a surprise that women are left with greater economic insecurity in retirement than men,” said Fatima Goss Graves, senior vice president of NWLC.
Paying women less than men for the same work has been illegal since 1963. Seven years ago, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier for workers to challenge pay inequality. He announced last month that employers with more than 100 workers will be required to start reporting compensation data by gender to the federal government.
The best way to achieve retirement income security, of course, is by closing the wage gap itself. But in the meantime, the government should be making policy changes to soften the blow.
Modernizing Social Security is an excellent place to begin. Sensible proposals have been offered that would improve benefits for women, such as beefing up survivor benefits, providing benefit credits for caregivers and increasing benefits at age 85.
Requiring employers to open up workplace retirement saving plans to part-time workers also could help. But what if you would rather not hold your breath and wait for an overhaul of federal policy?
“Women need to close the pay gap by learning how to negotiate and talk about money,” said Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, an expert on wealth and psychology. She also advises women to work with “female-friendly” financial advisers. “Some women are hesitant to take on investment risk,” she noted. “ But if you have an adviser you trust, you can learn how to take calculated risks and make investments that will help you reach retirement goals.”
Mark Miller is a Reuters columnist.