NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Social Security Penalizes Single Working Women

February 24, 2004

Because women live longer than men, they need more money to retire. With an increasing number of women entering their 60s single, divorced or widowed, this is starting to look like a real problem. Unfortunately, Social Security makes the problem worse by stacking the deck against single workers, says Scott Burns.

Being a single woman worker requires an additional $82,500 to $245,000 in savings over being married. This is a direct result of the Leave It to Beaver family assumptions built into the Social Security benefit structure, says Burns.

  • For a married couple where one spouse works and the other doesn't, Social Security will replace 44 percent of a final-year wage of $50,000 at retirement.
  • But the single worker can expect Social Security to replace only 32 percent of a final $50,000 income.
  • A single person earning $50,000 will need to draw 42 percent of her pre-retirement income from her savings to reach her 74 percent income replacement level.
  • A single-earner married couple will need only 32 percent to reach their 76 percent replacement level.
  • The 10 percent difference is $5,000 a year; that, in turn, means the single woman needs to save $100,000 to $125,000 more than a single-earner married couple.

Source: Scott Burns, "Singled out of benefits," Dallas Morning News, February 22, 2004.  


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