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Women Leaving the Workforce Amid COVID-19

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Welcome to ClearPath- Your Roadmap to Health and Wealth. I’m Al Waller. March is Women’s History Month, which offers an opportunity to reflect on the headwinds and structural inequalities that limit women’s ability to prepare, save, and reach long-term financial goals. The pandemic has only exacerbated these problems, as women are being stretched to their limits, in some instances balancing their job responsibilities with home schooling and caregiving. According to the National Women’s Law Center, nearly 2.2 million women left the labor force between February and October of 2020.

Catherine Collinson, president of nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies is joining us to share her insights on the topic of women’s retirement outlook and how to improve it.

Welcome, Catherine. It’s great to have you back. How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted women’s retirement since we last spoke on the topic?

It’s very concerning 26 percent of the women workers that we surveyed in October said their confidence in their ability to retire declined in light of the pandemic. Only one in five are “very” confident that they will be able to retire with a comfortable lifestyle.

So many people have been hit hard by the pandemic and recession, how has women’s employment impacted?

As we know, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economy. In the October survey, we found that 53 percent of women had experienced some negative

impact to their employment as a result of the pandemic, for example, reduced hours or pay, furloughs, and even layoffs.

And as you mentioned, more than 2 million women left the labor force last year, which means they are without a paycheck—and without the ability to save for retirement in the workplace. This greatly impacts their ability to cover living expenses -- and to save for the future.

Hopefully, with increased vaccine availability and schools re-opening under new CDC guidelines, more women will be able to return to the workforce. In the meantime, what are some actionable ways women can better prepare themselves for retirement?

Even during these uncertain times, there are steps that women can take to boost their financial wellbeing. Here are three tips:

1. If juggling work and family is just too much, before dropping out of the workforce altogether, explore opportunities for working part-time. This will bring income and can make it easier to find full-time employment when you are ready to do so.

2. Gain a true picture of your financial situation. Create a budget and financial plan that includes short-term goals and long-term retirement savings. Seek help from a professional financial advisor, if needed.

3. Keep your job skills up to date and learn new ones. Consider joining online networking groups. LinkedIn is a great resource.

As always, great insight from Catherine Collinson. For more tips, educational resources, and research on women and retirement, visit transamericacenter.org.

That’s all we have time for today on ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health and Wealth on WYPR, your NPR news station.

Al Waller is a long time native of the Baltimore area. He entered the field of Human Resources Management starting as an HR Generalist with PwC (Pricewaterhouse-Coopers). This marked the beginning of a 30 year career that advanced into the management level for locally and globally based corporations. His primary area of expertise has focused on but not limited to: Talent Acquisition /Retention, Employee Relations as well as Training & Development.
Catherine Collinson serves as President of the Transamerica Institute and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, and is a retirement and market trends expert and champion for Americans who are at risk for not achieving a financially secure retirement. Catherine oversees all research and outreach initiatives, including the Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey.