Women and Retirement Security

May 2017

Compared to previous generations, older women today carry more debt and are facing retirement in a more financially precarious position.


Total debt among women in their 50’s and 60’s has more than doubled in recent decades, and the percentage of older women with less than $25,000 in savings has also increased sharply. These are among the findings of this report on what motivates older women to remain in the labor force. Analyzing data from several large-scale studies, the authors conduct an extensive evaluation of how older women manage their household debt and plan for retirement.

Key Insights
The probability of working longer has risen for older women over time.
Income, education and financial literacy all correlate positively with retirement planning.
Older women who are over-indebted and financially fragile tend to have lower financial literacy and more financially dependent children; they also are likely to have experienced large income declines.

Using data from two sources, the Health and Retirement Study and the National Financial Capability Study,  the researchers conducted a multivariate analysis with two outcome variables: whether a woman is currently employed and the probability a woman will be working at age 65. They then considered the extent to which financial fragility and indebtedness affect these outcomes.