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The Economic Security of Latinas 50+ Is Often Overlooked

June 28, 2024

By Judy Pino

Here’s What Lawmakers Can Do About It.

Latinos 50 and over are expected to grow to 42 million by 2060, but experts question whether the United States will be prepared when this older demographic doubles and becomes a majority-minority society. Polling from The Hope Agenda by Independent Women’s Voice found that 92% of women said when making their decision of who to vote for this November, it’s important to them that candidates offer solutions to help older people who worry they can’t afford to retire. Ensuring women don’t end up in precarious situations when they are most vulnerable requires action from lawmakers now before the next generation of women wakes up in their sunset years.

Indeed, women face many obstacles in their right to age with dignity and fulfillment including health disparities, unequal access to health care, retirement savings, and a disproportionate share of caregiving responsibilities. Some solutions include boosting retirement security, greater financial options to invest or save, income security from self-employment or side businesses, and transparent upfront healthcare costs, to name a few.

At 84 years, Latinas have the second-highest life expectancy, surpassed only by Asian American women (85.8 years). Extended life expectancy among Latinas can bring about substantial health and financial obstacles, as they commonly experience poverty and rely significantly on Social Security as a primary source of retirement funds. Without Social Security, the poverty rate among Latinas aged over 65 would surge from 25% to 60%. For unmarried Latinas, Social Security serves as the primary income source for 40%, with 81% relying on it for the majority of their retirement income.

Boost Retirement Security

For Latinos, caregiving is natural and part of familial obligation. A new report says Latino caregivers are on average 43 years old—younger than other racial and ethnic groups. They face the compounded challenges of the “sandwich caregiver,” reporting more financial and personal strain as they juggle full-time or part-time jobs and families with younger children. However, research suggests that the sense of familism may be fading as younger generations become more acculturated or individualistic due to personal circumstances such as work obligations. What then?

As it is, Latinos already face challenges that keep them from building their nest egg. Limited availability of workplace retirement plans earlier in life account for hardships as Latinas age. In fact, Hispanics are more concerned than the general population about outliving their retirement savings (42% compared to 38%).

Protecting Latinas’ ability to work and save for retirement is crucial to avoid pitfalls as they age. In an effort to help individuals set aside enough savings for retirement, the IRS allows those nearing retirement (50+ years) to make annual catch-up contributions to their retirement accounts. The Expanding Access to Retirement Savings for Caregivers Act would expand access to catch-up contributions for individuals who forgo pay to step out of the workforce for at least one year in order to care for a family member. Former caretakers who meet this criterion would be permitted to make catch-up contributions in years prior to age 50.

Greater Financial Options and Income Security

Throughout our careers, women often make less money than men, in great part due to the employment choices they make. Latinas with a professional, advanced degree stand to lose nearly $2.5 million over a 40-year career. The consequences of choices can leave Latinas with fewer resources to invest in education, homeownership, and retirement, ultimately impeding not just their financial security, but also thwarting their efforts to establish wealth across generations. Latinas are three times more likely to be the sole heads of households compared to white women, and they also have the highest likelihood of residing in multi-generational households.

Flexibility, which is important to women who want to prioritize caregiving for children and aging parents, is at risk of elimination under the Department of Labor’s new Independent Contractor Rule. The push by the Biden administration to reclassify independent workers as employees may qualify them for sick leave, overtime, and minimum wages, but backfire on gig workers by eliminating the flexibility that they rely on. States and federal policymakers should reject proposals to reclassify independent contract workers to protect the flexibility and opportunity that these workers need and desire.

Transparent Upfront Healthcare Prices

While Latinas are living longer, they are not necessarily living healthier. Hispanics make up half of the nation’s uninsured. Nearly one in five Hispanic Americans don’t have health insurance—a share almost three times greater than Anglos. Access, language, and cultural barriers contribute to disparate outcomes. When it comes to navigating the healthcare system, the Hispanic community in this country is at a major disadvantage. Like many Americans, Latinos cannot afford the costs of basic health care. You wouldn’t purchase a car without knowing the price; why should healthcare be any different? The 2021 Trump-era Hospital Price Transparency Rule is a game-changer. By requiring healthcare providers to disclose their costs upfront, patients can shop for competitive prices and advocate for lower copays and deductibles. Policymakers must prioritize the reduction of unnecessary government regulations in health care, empowering hospitals and providers with greater flexibility to swiftly respond to emerging situations and innovate in meeting the diverse health needs of the population. A healthy and vibrant Hispanic demographic is a critical public health priority, given the Latino population’s projected growth from 18% of the total U.S. population to 29% by 2060.

As the saying goes, hope is the last thing ever lost. Women must begin demanding that lawmakers commit to finding solutions.

Judy Pino is spokesperson for The LIBRE Initiative.

Originally Published in Real Clear Policy