Women's retirement = slush fund?

This article shows how social and emotional pressures on women can cause them to withdraw money from their retirement accounts, turning them into a family slush fund.

I saw this while preparing taxes for a very sweet (perhaps a little dim) neighbor who had withdrawn about 40% from her IRA to give to her (even dimmer) sister. This sweet neighbor also allows her daughter to live in her original home in CA rent-free. (She should sell the home if she can’t bring herself to demand rent from her daughter.)

DH’s sister tapped her retirement fund to pay for chemotherapy for her husband (who died of cancer despite the treatment). Now she has nothing.

Many women have trouble saying “NO!” from the most trivial to the most costly requests.

In a recent survey by the investment firm TIAA, just 19 percent of women said they felt they would be able to retire without running out of money. For men, that number is 35 percent.


This is truly a Macro problem. Women live longer than men. The U.S. average life expectancy for women is 81 years, while for men it is 76. Women over 65 are more likely to be poor than men, regardless of race, educational background, and marital status. Over 15 million (or roughly 1 in 3) older adults aged 65+ are economically insecure, with incomes below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.

When women chip away at their retirement savings they shift the burden of support in old age onto their family (who may or may not help later) or taxpayers (who may or may not step up to the plate with programs to take care of them).