Guess How Many More Years Ladies Should Work After Their Husbands Get to Retire

Hint: the answer is not zero

A Separation

Lots of wives would like to retire at the same time as their husbands, and unfortunately that’s not practical, as this piece on Boston College’s Squared Away blog explains. Or, if they do sync up, women pay a pretty steep price.

Squared Away Blog

STUDIES SHOW that lots of men would like to retire at 62. Isn’t that dandy. The trouble is, lots of men also like:

  • ladies who are younger than they are
  • wives who will retire at the same time they do

These things, it turns out, are incompatible. If a 62-year-old man with a stable work history wants to retire, bully for him. He’ll get to spend his last decade(s) in relatively well-funded peace and tranquility. If he wants his 55-year-old wife to retire too, though, he’ll run into trouble, and so will she — trouble that may last longer than he does, especially if he gives into the urge to buy that motorcycle.

Why? By their mid-fifties, “many boomer mothers still haven’t accumulated 35 years of substantial earnings, because they took some time off or worked part-time to raise children.”

STUPID MOTHERHOOD PENALTY. STUPID CULTURE THAT piously tells us we really should be stay-at-home moms, for good of our children, and yet cautions us that everything our kids need we can’t afford to give them unless we and our partners work (and work, and work).

Even at 62, most women aren’t in good shape to retire the same way their husbands usually are, because they spent crucial years in the 20s or 30s doing unpaid labor on behalf of the household — labor that, btw, often facilitated and made possible the paid labor of their spouse.

So how much longer do they need to work after the dudes retreat to the hammock?

EIGHT YEARS. Eight years! That’s the length of time it would take you to get two BAs, or to watch one James Cameron movie.

By retiring later and replacing those early, zero- or low-earning years in their Social Security records, wives can significantly increase the earnings record on which their own benefits are based. …

by working until 70, rather than retiring at 62, boomer wives can increase their “Social Security wealth” — the total value today of all of their future monthly benefits — by 9 percent, on average.

In contrast, working past age 62 has little or no effect on a husband’s Social Security benefit, because he typically already has 35 years of substantial earnings.

[Harvard researcher] Maestas concludes that the additional wealth from continuing to work “can place married women on par with married men in terms of the lifetime resources available to them in the latter part of life.”

Oh good, after eight additional years of paid work, she can at last be “on par” with her husband, who’s been snoozing in front of HGTV full-time for almost a decade by that point. How exciting.

See also: this piece by our Beatrice M. Hogg.

My Life in Labor, According to the Social Security Administration

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