Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Herb Kohl, D-Wis., held a hearing today to examine the unique issues women face in achieving retirement security.
The hearing, entitled "Enhancing Women's Retirement Security," included testimony from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the findings of a new report requested by Kohl and from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and other policy experts. The hearing largely focused on Social Security, which women disproportionately depend on for their retirement income.
During the hearing, Kohl pressed SSA to do more to help people understand their benefits.
"SSA has a responsibility to inform and educate people about their benefits, and it needs to make sure people understand just how much money they are losing when they take their benefits sooner rather than later," Kohl said.
Currently, the majority of women claim benefits at 62 - the earliest age possible. Only 18 percent wait until their normal retirement age of 66 or later. A woman expecting to get $1,000 a month at 66 gives up $250 every month for the rest of her life if she files to take her benefit at 62. On the other hand, if she waits until 70, she is looking at a monthly benefit of $1,320. A person claiming at 70 can get 76% more in benefits than if she claimed at 62. A recent study from the Center for Retirement Research called this strategy to delay benefits "the best deal in town."
The GAO report, entitled "Retirement Security: Women Still Face Challenges," included a range of policy proposals, including a stronger push to help people understand the benefits of delaying the receipt of Social Security benefits.
"According to experts, many people do not realize that waiting to claim Social Security benefits can significantly increase monthly benefit amounts for the rest of their lives," according to the report. "Better educational outreach could increase awareness. If workers delay claiming Social Security benefits, income and payroll tax revenues would be increased and solvency would be improved."
Kohl also spoke in favor of the bipartisan proposal to increase Social Security's Special Minimum Benefit, which is the floor benefit level for career low-wage earners.