Retirement and Gender - Why Do Women Have All the Luck?
Ladies - Do You Feel Lucky?
“Why is it that women on average live 10 years longer than men and yet men are expected to work for longer, giving them less retirement fun time before they die?”(sic) -- asked by Mr. Stephen Patrick
Dear Hubber Stephen Patrick:
© Patty Inglish, MS Preventive Medicine. Published April 27, 2010. All rights reserved. Written permission required to use this material elsewhere.
Your question implies that
- Men work a greater number of years on average than women,
- Women live 10 years longer on average than men,
- Men have fewer years total available to them for enjoyment,
- Men enjoy fewer years than women of happiness in retirement before death ,
- Women enjoy an unfair advantage of longer lifespan and less work than do men,
- Men should not have to work so long,
- Women should be punished, not given a natural advantage,
- Someone should be able to fix this
I wonder at the motivation for your question.
Looking into the future at a trend already evident today, the US Social Security Administration tells us in its Life Expectancy tables that the lifespan of infants born in 2009 is 80.0 for females and 74.88 for males, only about 5 years difference. (SS Administration, www.ssa.gov, data for 2009). The difference is not 10 years, because natural forces are narrowing the gap for the 7 or so years it is for Baby Boomers. At the same time, retirement age is going up↑. In the year 2084, a huge number of men may, infact, drop dead a month before retirement, while the women live on for 5 years while suffering fatal and painful diseases. This is not "fun" for either.
Men in 2084?
Women 80+ years old. The largest segment of the American population that is increasing in percentage of the total population is not only Baby Boomers, but the Oldest Old. The majority of the Oldest Old are - pardon me for the designation - old women, ages 80 and older. The majority of these women are not well and many of them are very sick and experiencing tremendous pain. Heart disease afflicts as many older women as men in the 2010s. The diseases of old age are largely diseases of women. The Oldest Old women are also often alone, because they have outlived their family members and friends, except for other senior women. This is not enjoyment of retirement years.
Women ages 50 - 80 are in only a somewhat better condition. Many are single, unemployed, do not quality for public benefits of any kind - some ahve no family at all and have outlived most of their friends - and are not happy. The years under the Clinton and Bush Administrations and the Recession of 2008 - 2010 relieved many of them of their jobs. Without work and healthcare, their physical and mental conditions deteriorate and they do not live as long as the projected longer-lifespan-for-women-than-men. This equalizes the number of "fun" years for men and women overall, to a certain extent.
While you ask why women live longer and men are denied as many "fun" years of retirement, many of these millions of unemployed and underemployed older women ask,
What am I supposed to do - we have to work until we are 65 or even 67 in order to receive full Social Security benefits and we are fired or laid off at age 50. What do we do for 15 or 17 years?
Actually, these are the people that recent tax cuts and parts of the changing healthcare system of the nation may be able to help.
The age at which a woman or a man can collect 100% benefits from Social Security increases above age 67 (set for those born in 1960) at a graduated rate month that shows significance in birth years 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, and so on, with larger penalties for every month these workers retire before the full-benefit threshold year. People born in 2000 will work to age 75 - or close to it. This equalizes the number of "fun" years for men and women again, to a certain extent.
Men and women are both losing "fun" years at the same rate, if retirement is generally and always "fun" as the original question implies.
While some women are married to well-paid husbands and can enjoy free time while their husbands continue to work, these women are not in the majority of the American population.
The larger percentage of American women is one that becomes increasingly alone as the women in it age. When married, they are not able to retire at all in any years, let alone the years of "fun" attributed to them in the question levied at the beginning of this response article. Millions of these women must maintain and home and meal schedule 24/7/365 until they lie down on their death beds. This is not enjoyment of retirement years. Hopefully, it is enjoyment of their ONLY years.
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All of this is one reason of utmost importance that young people plan an education and career path early on, before they begin working full-time. Kindergarten is too early, high-school-senior may be too late. As with all choices, it is individual.
Women can benefit from these plans just as highly as men can benefit, even if some women believe that they will marry a well-paid husband and not need to work outside their homes. At the same time, they need to ensure the means of paying the hired help through their Oldest Old years - and an insurance plan for long-term care in a retirement/nursing home and attached healthcare is a wise idea at that. In fact, it is wise for all people of all genders.
Read the story of a well-paid husband and his wife and their not-fun years of retirement (her's a few years longer than his) in the biography of actor DeForrest Kelley and his wife: From Sawdust to Stardust and the precursor A Harvest of Memories. She lived a bit longer, they were both helpless and miserable.
Since obesity has become an increasing problem in America, the results of the condition, including many illnesses, chronic conditions, and death will hit more women and well as more men before retirement age and there will be no "fun" retirement years for many of either of them, unless the general population responds to education about how to combat it effectively.
Unfortunately, some factors are already narrowing the gap between fewer "fun" years for men and more "fun" years for women in retirement -- they both are receiving fewer, on average.
Individual choices can change these outcomes.
"Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow"
- William Shakespeare
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