Underwood, Schakowsky Introduce Bill to Address Retirement Gap, Strengthen Women’s Financial Futures

April 2, 2019
Press Release
Legislation would address impact of wage gap and pay inequalities on financial security and retirement gap

WASHINGTON Representatives Lauren Underwood (IL-14) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), along with U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), introduced the Women’s Retirement Protection Act of 2019 (WRPA) to address the retirement gap and strengthen women’s financial security. According to the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), women of retirement age typically have an income that is three-fourths that of men, and they are 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished. Women not only have fewer resources than men to support themselves in retirement, they also tend to live longer than men, meaning they must make their smaller retirement savings stretch over a longer period of time. The legislation is co-sponsored by Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) and Donald Norcross (NJ-01).

“Women deserve the same economic opportunity as men throughout their lifetimes, but often retirement is left out of that conversation as women continue to face disproportionate barriers,” said Congresswoman Underwood. “Retirement security is economic security. We must strengthen consumer protections, including working to ensure a spouse cannot undermine the retirement of their partner without consent. I’m honored to introduce this bill in the House alongside Congresswoman Schakowsky and Senator Murray to ensure women have equal opportunity as they plan their financial futures.”

“On the heels of passing the Paycheck Fairness Act in the House, and on the eve of Equality Day, our work to win full equality for women in America must include addressing the retirement gap,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “Because they are much more likely to earn less than their male counterparts, women in America typically have less money saved up for retirement. The Women’s Retirement Protection Act takes crucial steps toward closing that gap. It improves spousal access to retirement plans, makes more long-term and part-time workers eligible for retirement plans, and improves financial literacy. Coupled with our ongoing effort to protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare, this bill would go a long way in ensuring a secure retirement for American women. I am proud to once again join Senator Murray in this effort and to have my friend and colleague from Illinois, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, by my side here in the House.”

WRPA includes a set of solutions to address the retirement gap and some of the challenges that disproportionately affect women as they plan for their financial futures. The legislation would strengthen consumer protections to safeguard retirement savings, improve access to retirement savings plans for long-term, part-time workers, increase access to information about retirement and savings tools, and help low-income women and survivors of domestic abuse get the retirement benefits they are entitled to following a divorce.

WRPA would:

  • Strengthen consumer protections to safeguard retirement savings by expanding existing spousal protections for defined benefit plans to defined contributions plans to prevent one spouse from making decisions that might undermine a couple’s retirement resources without the other’s knowledge and consent;
  • Expand access to retirement savings plans by changing the minimum participation standards for long-term, part-time workers—most of whom are women;
  • Increase access to information about retirement and savings tools by providing grants for community-based organizations to help provide information about financial tools to women who are of working or retirement age;
  • Support low-income women and survivors of domestic abuse seeking retirement benefits by providing grants for community-based organizations that assist them in obtaining qualified domestic relations orders, the legal instruments that allow for the division of retirement benefits—assuring they receive the retirement benefits they are entitled to following a divorce or legal separation.

 

Fact sheet of Women’s Retirement Protection Act of 2019 can be found here.

Infographic of bill can be found here.

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