Older women voters – particularly women of the Boomer generation — could help decide the 2016 presidential election. Yet many of their real concerns are being ignored and their questions overlooked in a largely issueless campaign.
What do they care about? To be sure, there’s great diversity within this generation of women – but there are also common themes.
A 50-year- old woman today is looking at 20 or even 30 more years of life after so-called retirement age and this is creating a new set of anxieties – especially if she makes less than $50,000 a year. She’s wondering how long she’ll continue to make ends meet, whether she’ll be financially secure when she retires, and if there will be anyone to take care of HER as she ages even as she worries about being able to take care of her loved ones.
These concerns jump out in a new AARP survey of women voters age 50 and over, conducted in 15 battleground states. Among the highlights:
Boomer women are focused on their family budgets. Close to three quarters (74 percent) of modest-income Boomer women – and almost two-thirds (64 percent) of Boomer women making over $50,000 — said they worry that prices will rise faster than their incomes.Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of Boomer women earning less than $50,000 also worry about paying too much in taxes – a concern shared by 45 percent of their higher-income counterparts. And, having to pay for expensive prescription drugs is a worry for half of the modest-income women surveyed.
Boomer women are balancing responsibilities to care for family members of all generations – 37 percent say they are caring for children, grandchildren or parents.
Being independent and financially secure in retirement is of great concern, particularly for modest-income Boomer women. Almost half (47 percent) of all Boomer women said they worry about being able to take care of themselves as they age. Looking specifically at lower-income women, that number goes up to 56 percent. Similar numbers expressed concern that Social Security will not be there when they need it and that they will lack financial security in retirement.
Family caregiving is the new normal. An overwhelming number of Americans want to live in their homes as they age, and family members are making it possible. More than half of Boomer women are or have been family caregivers.
POCKETBOOK ISSUES AND RETIREMENT MAIN CAUSES OF ECONOMIC ANXIETY
Being a mom of college-age students, I worry about them and their future and how they’re going to make it — and their children. And then, for my husband and I, we’re putting both of our boys through school, and we have a daughter who’s also entering college in a few years, so we worry about what our retirement’s going to look like after we help them. It’s just a different climate today than it used to be.
I can’t imagine ever not working because I can’t imagine being able to afford to live. I do have a 401(k) and I have money saved, I just can’t imagine I would be able to live more than a year on that savings. I’m definitely wary about relying on Social Security. I feel like I am just going to have to keep working.
SOCIAL SECURITY IS CRITICAL TO WOMEN’S RETIREMENT SECURITY
I’m hoping when I retire, there will be some Social Security left. I put in my money so I would like some back. I also spent some time in the military – 8 years – so hopefully that will count for something… But in the meantime I’m going to work as long as I can and save money, just in case. You have to be prepared because you don’t know what the future holds.