Legislation To Protect Women’s Retirement Security Reintroduced in House and Senate

Senate Democratic Leadership Press Conference in Washington, US - 20 Jul 2021
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U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D-IL), reintroduced the Women’s Retirement Protection Act of 2021 — a legislation to address the retirement gap and bolster women’s financial security — last week.

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The reintroduction in the House and the Senate comes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis that have disproportionately impacted women, particularly women of color — with a recent survey finding that 40% of women said they expect the past year to have a long-term impact on their finances, according to a statement.

“COVID-19 has upended the finances of families across the country and led to severe job loss, especially in sectors like child care that disproportionately employ women, particularly women of color,” Sen. Murray said in a statement. “Even before this pandemic, women in America typically had less money saved for retirement, in part because they were paid less than their male counterparts for the same work throughout their careers.”

Related: Here’s How Much Men vs. Women Earn at Every Age

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She added that inequities, such as investments, compound over time, “which is why it is so critical we take action now to address how this pandemic and other challenges are undermining women’s financial futures. So today, I’m reintroducing the Women’s Retirement Protection Act to help women get the tools and resources they need to support themselves and their families throughout their lives.”

According to the Senators’ statement, 4 in 10 women expect the COVID-19 pandemic to have a long-term impact on their finances. In addition, the average woman loses more than $400,000 over a 40-year career due to the wage gap, and some women of color lose more than $1 million due to pay inequality by retirement.

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The Act would expand eligibility for employer-sponsored retirement plans to even more part-time workers — most of whom are women. It would also expand spousal protections to prevent one spouse from undermining a couple’s retirement resources without the other’s knowledge and consent.

In addition, the bill also includes grants to help women with low incomes and survivors of domestic abuse receive retirement benefits that are owed following divorce. And it would increase access to information about retirement and savings tools by providing grants for community-based organizations to help provide information and financial tools to women who are of working or retirement age.

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“AARP is pleased to support the Women’s Retirement Protection Act which aims to improve women’s financial security. The bill would prevent a spouse from cashing out a retirement account without first getting the other spouse’s consent,” AARP said in the statement. “In addition, part-time workers would benefit from access to retirement plan coverage after two (rather than three) years of employment. This change will be especially helpful to the more than 27 million workers who work less than full-time, most of whom are women or caregivers.”

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Last updated: July 26, 2021

About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.

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