Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7! Learn more about reviewing coverage, making changes.
Living on a Budget
by Carole Fleck, AARP Bulletin, October 5, 2007
In her controversial book The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving up Too Much? Leslie Bennetts challenges women to take fiscal responsibility for themselves. In an interview with the AARP Bulletin, the author, who is married with two children, zeroes in on the pitfalls that can snare women on the road to retirement.
Q: In your book you say that women put their retirement security in jeopardy when they give up their careers to care for their children. Can you explain?
A: Because of their more erratic labor force participation, women have less savings, less in pensions, less in 401(k)s, lower Social Security benefits, and are often left to face growing poverty in their later years. At the moment, twice as many women end up poor in their later years than men. You could be widowed at 55 and live until 95—very few people have enough to sustain them for 40 years.
Q: What about returning to work after raising children? How did that turn out for the women you interviewed for your book?
A: Women were catastrophically unprepared for the difficulty of reentering the labor force. They were blindsided by the barriers—ageism, sexism and overt discrimination against mothers and also a strong prejudice against returning workers. Those four factors add up to a very high barrier. Many never find full-time jobs with benefits—which means health insurance—at a level commensurate with their abilities, let alone their expectations.
Q: You say that for a woman to be financially dependent on her husband could be the biggest mistake of her life. Why?
A: Women can't count on men to support them. It's an obsolete model. Nobody is going to be able to count on anybody to support him or her throughout an adult lifetime.
Q: What do older women need to know now?
A: They have to think seriously about the possibility of living to be 90 or 100 and make serious financial plans for how they're going to support themselves. They can't assume they'll have a husband to support them the whole time, or that if they lose one husband they'll get another. I don't intend to stop working, because I'm terrified by the prospects.
Featured AARP Member Benefits
See All >
WayForth Home Transition Management
Free consultation and follow-up plan
Personal Loans from Marcus by Goldman Sachs®
No-fee personal loans
Members can save monthly on qualified AT&T wireless plans
Members can save 50% on prescription lenses
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
You'll start receiving the latest news, benefits, events, and programs related to AARP's mission to empower people to choose how they live as they age.
You can also manage your communication preferences by updating your account at anytime. You will be asked to register or log in.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at