Ms. Magazine
The F Word
The word "feminist" still raises hackles. Is claiming this word all about age, race, and class?

-Just The Facts
-Word: Impossible
-Women to Watch

Zero Balance
Those entering middle age are discovering--sometimes too late--that women get the short end of the stick when it comes to retirement benefits.
-Women's Bodies are Finally Being Studied
The Abortion Pill
Making mifepristone available in this country took decades of struggle and remains fraught with controversy.
-Editor's Page
-The Guerilla Girls
-No Comment
Portfolio: Romaine Brooks
Lesbian society in Paris at the turn of the 20th century is captured by this groundbreaking portraitist.
Uppity Women: Rosario Robles' Bold Agenda

-The Serpent Slayer by Katrin Tchana, Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
-Desirada, Maryse Conde
-Glory Goes And Gets Some, Emily Carter
-The Moon Pearl, Ruthanne Lum McCunn
-Kiss My Tiara, Susan Jane Gilman
-Motiba's Tattoos, Mira Kamdar

-First Person: By Any Other Name
-Columns: Daisy Hernandez, Patricia Smith and Gloria Steinem

>1: Retirement Mistakes Women Can't Afford To Make
2: Getting the Info You Need

Baby-boom women--born between 1946 and 1964--have seen the world transformed in their lifetime. They are, as a rule, better educated than their mothers and more likely to be working full-time outside the home for longer periods.

So you would think that when it comes to retirement, which is fast approaching for the older members of this group, they'd be better off than their mothers--the majority of whom were low-wage workers or homemakers dependent on a man's income. But think again.

"People have this notion that boomer women are just doing so well; many are earning a lot more than their mothers ever dreamed of," says Diana Zuckerman, former director of research at the Institute for Women's Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. "But when it comes to retirement, except for a select group of successful professionals, this generation of women isn't going to be nearly as well off as you might think." In fact, sociologist Nancy Dailey, author of When Baby Boom Women Retire, estimates that only 20 percent of boomer women will be financially secure in retirement. Adding insult to injury is this irony: despite all the gains of the women's movement, experts say the best indicator that this group of woman will retire well is having a husband.


Don't take a job without asking about pensions
Most people ask about health care but forget about the pension. Before you take a job, you should ask how many years before you're in the plan. Will your employer contribute? What happens if you leave the job?


Don't excuse yourself from saving
Too many women put off saving because they can't save much or they think it's too late. If you put away just $25 a week starting at age 35 and invest it conservatively, you'd add more than $95,000 to your nest egg before retirement. Start an automatic savings plan now! You can have a modest amount of money deducted from your paycheck or checking account by a mutual fund company.


Don't take Social Security early
Currently, you must be 65 years old to draw your full monthly Social Security benefit (starting in 2003, the retirement age will begin to creep up, until in 2027 it will be 67 for people born in 1960 or later). You can opt to start receiving benefits at age 62, but your monthly benefit will be reduced by as much as 30 percent for as long as you live.


Don't sign away your pension rights
A widow is entitled by law to half her husband's pension, but many are left with nothing. Why? At retirement, employees are asked whether they want "lifetime benefits," paid only as long as the retiree lives, or a "joint and survivor annuity," paid even after the retiree dies. Because the monthly amount is higher for lifetime-only benefits, many men pick the lifetime option, and many financial advisors suggest it. But if they die first, which statistically they're likely to do, their widow gets nothing. Spouses must sign a consent form for the lifetime benefit option, so don't sign if it's not in your best interests.

Don't let your ex-husband be stingy with his pension
If you don't demand a share of your husband's pension at the time of divorce, you've blown your chance. In many cases, even when there is a house or other sizeable assets involved, a share of the husband's pension is more valuable. You or your lawyer must file a court order called a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), to get part of his pension, and send a copy to the pension plan.
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