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Older Women Workers Squashed

They're forced to retire. But how to survive?

Photo: whaddayear via

When I first started writing about working women (almost 30 years ago), they were already being called "the Sandwich Generation." That was designed to indicate women trying to be housemates, even mothers, and job holders.

That was the point in time in which most of our grandmothers and many of our mothers were working 'cause they had to, not 'cause they wanted to. It was also a point in time where the rich were already getting--and keeping--increasing income; regular folks found even COLA dollars were not true cost of living adjustments. Of course that gap just keeps widening.

Some of these ladies were starting true careers; e.g., astronauts, politicians, journalists, and more. Others had careers but they were more traditional, like teachers and nurses. Some were sort of in careers, but not ones where they'd usually go too far, like a receptionist. But many were women in less than bountiful "just-bring-in-dollars" jobs. They worked in factories, supermarkets, department stores, and other retailers.

Retiring to where?

Reading AARP, you'd think retirees had great savings. I know when it was founded so many had modest pensions, or were just starting to learn about Social Security, wills, and other aging issues. So they got great advice.

Pick up one of their current publications, though, and you'll see it addressing a population segment that's now gloriously saved. Sure maybe half- or even a quarter-million dollars could be considered modest today. I know the costs of long-term care; I've been covering its challenges almost from the get-go. And living to the 80s, 90s, maybe even older, means far more savings are needed to meet daily life needs even if you stay fairly healthy.

Still, we're lucky if most Americans have five HUNDRED--not five hundred thousand--dollars saved. And as one Forbes story points out, women especially are likely to be challenged once they "retire" (aka get forced out) from a job they've had for 10, 20, or more years.

Now they're another type of sandwich generation, between senior partners and parents, any or all of whom need caregiving. We are usually the main dollar spender. WE purchase foods, clothing, books, games, and so much more, choosing most (even all) not only for ourselves but for loved ones.

But because those aren't "big ticket" items, we don't truly count as important (unless of course you sell the smaller ticket stuff). Even before the pandemic though, being tossed out of work meant women struggled. Now? With no place to try and get another job? As Ralph Kramden would say, "Fuggedaboudit."

The Forbes story claims women now face "unprecedented uncertainty" about their futures. Here I disagree. Many of us have been writing about women's ever-increasing uncertainty for quite some time. I wrote my first long-term care story for the NY Times nearly 20 years ago. Back then, the stats said seniors would need $100,000 a year to ensure reliable, pleasant, care environment. Being just regular middle-class folks, but both self-employed, trust me, I've worried about our future ever since.

And when hubby's gone, and at least half our steady dollars goes with him? Oh, I know we have far more than average families, but still... .

If any of you have ideas of what older women can do to keep earning income, both for financial safety and just for sanity, I'd love to hear it. Add your comments to my note on LI and FB, or email me here through Contact Wendy.

Wendy Meyeroff has been a B2B and B2C storyteller on health & tech issues for 20+ years, serving clients across the USA and beyond. And as the story indicates, she's particularly covered senior-related issues. She stares at those issues even more closely nowadays.

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