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As women approach retirement, the 77 cent wage gap gets scarier p2

As we said in our last post, we do have a point, and it is this: Women earn less than men, and that has a direct impact on their retirement and estate planning. Nationwide, women earn about $16,000 a year after age 65. Men? Men earn almost $27,000. While working, women earn 77 cents on the dollar, but in retirement women earn about 60 cents on the dollar (the dollar earned by men, that is).

The 17-cent difference can be attributed only in part to the wage difference. Other life experiences account for the remainder, researchers say.

For example, more women than men are stay-at-home parents -- many more, in fact. According to census data, there were 5.2 million stay-at-home moms in 2013, nearly 25 times the number of stay-at-home dads. We know too well that stay-at-home parents are not compensated for their time. If their time at home is short-term, their lifetime earnings take a hit. Lower lifetime earnings, unfortunately, mean lower benefits from Social Security. No lifetime earnings -- for lifetime stay-at-home parents -- can mean no Social Security benefits at all.

No personal benefits, that is. The Social Security Administration does provide spousal benefits, but the payment is just half what the spouse would earn. And, of course, there are exceptions. If the marriage does not last 10 years, for example, neither spouse may be eligible.

The spousal benefit has been one argument for same-sex marriage: It is only available to currently married people. Same-sex couples who have entered into a civil union are not eligible. Neither is anyone who is widowed, divorced or in a domestic partnership.

Women need to consider all of this as they work on their retirement and estate plans. They should also watch the papers, because activists are asking for parity in spousal benefits. Some are even asking for benefits to be based on need, without regard to marital status or lifetime earnings. There may still be a gender gap for benefits, but it may be smaller.

Source: USA Today, "Women can't escape gender gap even in retirement," Claire Davidson, June 21, 2014

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