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Women and Poverty and Retirement


I've been listening as presidential candidates and their wives bicker about their plans to combat poverty and lift people up.  It's all well and good but let's talk about women and poverty and specifically, the inequities women face leading up to retirement compared to men.

The stats speak for themselves:


  • Two-thirds of working women earn less than $30,000 a years.
  • Nearly half of all women work in low-paying jobs that do not offer any retirement plans or 401(k) plan.
  • The median income in 2004 for retired women was $12,080 compared to men’s income of $21,102.
  • Social Security continues to be the only source of income for 30% of non-married women over 65 and 46% rely on it for 90% of their income.


It's more than just presidential candidates who are engaged in women and poverty issues. There are a many organizations that are doing something about the enequites women face. One example stems from Heinz Family Philanthropies and the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement.


Teresa Heinz Kerry had a vision and wanted to provide the tools for women to help them get on a path to financial prosperity and independence.  In doing so, we released a free eBook called, “What Women Need to Know About Retirement.”

As Teresa Heinz Kerry writes in the forward:


Today, at the start of the 21st century, when a woman decides to take her finances into her own hands, and to provide for a secure and comfortable and dignified retirement, she is confronted with having to make many complicated choices and many difficult decisions. And it’s not surprising, then, for a woman to feel overwhelmed, alone and on her own. This book and its authors are here to tell all working women two important things. First: You Can Do It. Second: You Are Not Alone. We are here to share the practical wisdom gained from experiences like yours, to help you take control of your life and prepare for your retirement. Today, our retirement system still functions as if most of the workers in America were men. But with 69 million women in the workforce—and 10 million of them the sole breadwinners in their families—it is time and past time to bring our retirement policies into the 21st century.

The candidates have a lot of work to do but in the meantime, women (and men too) can begin to take control of their future. It is unfortunate that women often have to sacrifice retirement planning as a result of their diverse roles as mothers and caregivers and breadwinners.  We understand this is no quick fix but we hope that the eBook will be a helpful resource to give women the power, education and confidence to begin the journey toward retirement security.


About The Heinz Family Philanthropies
With offices in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Washington,  D.C., the Heinz Family Philanthropies are small organizations that generate outsized results. We work to create positive change across the philanthropic spectrum with particular interest in health care, women and health, and the environment. We establish private-and public-sector linkages to drive philanthropic innovation.

The Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) works to increase awareness of the structural barriers that prevent women's adequate participation in the nation's retirement systems.  Created in 1996 by Teresa Heinz Kerry, Chairman of the Heinz Family Philanthropies, its goal is to improve the long-term economic security of millions of American women and men.  WISER is an independent 501©3 organization.









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