Women's issues have largely been missing from talks about how to keep the Social Security program strong far into the future, some advocates say. This week, it will be one of the topics at a summit in Chicago.
Social Security is the primary source of income for about one-in-four retired women in Illinois. But the system faces serious solvency problems, and experts warn that if nothing changes, future retirees could lose up to $10,000 a year. Ryan Gruenenfelder, manager of advocacy and outreach at AARP Illinois, said retirement income options are limited, especially for older women who made career sacrifices early on to take care of their families.
"Women earn less money throughout their careers," Gruenenfelder said, "so they're likely to have gaps in employment due to childbearing and care-giving. And they live longer. So, that makes Social Security more important to them than men."
AARP will host the "Social Security and Women Summit," August 17th in Chicago. Financial and policy experts will discuss which reform options may be on the table in Washington.
According to The Social Security Administration, if lawmakers don't act, the fund could run dry by 2034. And as the November election draws ever closer, Gruenenfelder said, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump should make Social Security reform a top priority on the campaign trail.
"The longer we keep putting this off, the harder it will be to make changes to the program," Gruenenfelder said. "If we start now, there is still 15, 18 years to implement those solutions."
According to AARP Illinois, Social Security helps about one-third of the state's retired women stay out of poverty.
For more information, visit aarp.org.