Women and Wealth

Meet Retired Barbie – Pensions Without Patriarchy Are 30% Higher

BY Spectrum Wealth Management | Aug 25, 2023
Australian actress Margot Robbie poses on the pink carpet upon arrival for the European premiere of “Barbie” in central London on July 12, 2023. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Barbie, the megahit movie, has something for everyone, but it needed to pursue the death and aging theme a little more. Buzz kill, sorry, but as the movie progressed, the theme of death developed into one of the most poignant moments of the movie.

Margot Robbie looks intently at an old women at a Venice Beach bus stop and tells her she is beautiful – the highest form of compliment stereotypical Barbie can make. As Barbie leaves she looks back over her shoulder and makes the audience contemplate the beauty of the aged women, who had responded with glittering eyes to Barbie’s complement, “I know.”

I urge Mattel MAT to create “Retired Barbie.” She is old, beautiful, and financially independent.

No Old Age Poverty in Barbie Land

In Barbie Land, women get equal pay for equal work. They have high pay and management positions that let them flex their time on the job, care for children, dogs, and not take a hit to their pay or retirement contributions. In Barbie Land single women can fund their pensions and live without suffering the deprivations of old age poverty.

In the real world, a white married woman aged 35-39 with more than a high school education has a 9% risk of being in poverty by the time she is 50-54 years old; her non-white counterpart has a 13% risk. Being single increases poverty risk substantially. A white non-married woman has a 26% risk of being poor in 15 years, and a nonwhite, non-married woman has a 52% chance.

Retirement Account Disparities

In July 2023 the Government Accountability Office reported that retirement account disparities have gotten worse over time. Low income and nonwhite workers’ retirement plan accumulations have stagnated while those for the top ballooned in the 12 years between 2019 and 2007. Only 10% of low-income households had a retirement account balance in 2019 compared to about 20% in 2007, but 90% of high-income households had a balance through the period.

And since women are more likely to be low income — in 2022, women earn 83 cents for every dollar a man earns — their accumulated retirement assets are always going to be smaller for the same years of work. (Unionizing would help: unionized nursing jobs pay $200-$400 more per week than nonunion jobs.) In the real world, nonwhite Barbie is likely to have half the assets of white Barbie.

Asset management firm TIAA has a new initiative to tackle retirement inequality and it digs deep into the causes of women’s retirement financial fragility. The Dress , a fully fashioned gown made from fake $20 bills, illustrates women have less. The Center for American Progress progress reported women have $1.6 Billion less in retirement assets than men and 30% less pension income than men.

In the real world, men in Congress and the male President passed The Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 aimed at ending sex-based discrimination at work and education. And the law helped a bit. More women than men are earning college degrees, including Ph.Ds., and women do not drop out of the labor market today as much as they did in the past. But the efforts are not enough.

How to Get Better Retirements For Women in the Real World

In the real world, women cannot overcome systematic losses from the socially, politically, and economically embedded gendered division of labor. In the real world, women cannot overcome systematic losses from, as Ken says, patriarchy. People need to act collectively.

  1. Increasing Social Security’s progressive benefits—i.e., lower-wage earners receive greater benefits than high earners relative to their contributions—would help reduce elder poverty rates among nonwhite workers and women.
  2. Increasing access to a portable, tax-advantaged retirement savings account that offers federal matching contributions for low- and middle income workers would disproportionately help women and others with lower incomes and spells of non-employment. The Retirement Savings for Americans Act Sponsored by Senators Hickenlooper (D) and Tillis (R) and Representatives Smucker (R) and Sewell (D) and would establish such a program and help provide retirement security for low- and middle income workers.

Patriarchy and class inequality is a big part of the coming retirement crisis. In the real world we all grow old and think of death. But the process could be beautiful with decent pensions.

Spectrum Wealth Management, LLC is an investment adviser registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. Additional information about Spectrum’s investment advisory services is found in Form ADV Part 2, which is available upon request. The information presented is for educational and illustrative purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal, or investment advice. Tax and legal counsel should be engaged before taking any action. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information and should not be considered a solicitation for purchasing or selling any security.