Let's get some depressing numbers out of the way first (and here are some more):
- The poverty rate among women is at record rates; so is the "extreme poverty" rate (the number of women living below half the poverty line)
- Twice as many women over 65 as men are living in poverty.
- More than 19 million women under 65 don't have health insurance.
- Women earn an average of 77 cents to a man's dollar.
- Poverty rates for women increase during childbearing years and old age.
- Custodial mothers are twice as likely to be poor as custodial fathers.
- Half of U.S. cities cite domestic violence as a primary cause of homelessness.
Rather than dwelling on the grim realities of poverty, today I want to discuss solutions--not institutional ones, though they would help. Let's consider things women can do now to make a difference in their own lives.
- Do whatever it takes to get the education you need.
- Negotiate caregiving roles where possible, both in the case of children and parents. Even if you're living in traditional roles, it doesn't mean you have to be completely financially dependent.
- Keep up with your networking and keep your resume current, even if you're at home. It helps to be prepared.
- Plan for the future, including all possibilities. I know of situations where spouses planned for retirement, assuming they knew how long they'd both live, and it didn't work out that way. What would happen if your spouse died? If you were divorced? If your spouse lost his job? Assuming you and your true love live a long and happy life, the odds still make it likely that you will outlive your spouse if you're a woman. How long could you live on your own?
- Learn to be financially literate, if you're not already. Even if one of you always pays the bills, you both need to know exactly what your financial situation is.