My name is Tonya Bealey and I live in Los Angeles County.
The issues we are here to talk about today are very personal to me. My family lives them every day, along with millions of others in California and across the country.
Out of the 3 generations of adult women in my family, I am currently the only woman who will have something more than Social Security to support me in my retirement, or even have the option of retiring at all.
I am a state employee at the DMV in Long Beach and my husband is a California Highway Patrolman. While we worry every day about saving enough to get by for the rest of our lives, our pensions are a stable and secure option that sadly, many people can no longer look forward to. We have worked hard to get where we are, and we consider ourselves lucky every day.
But our children and my mother – while they have worked just as hard and are just as responsible – they, and millions more like them are far worse off.
My widowed mother worked for years, but now has only her Social Security check to rely on in her golden years. Like so many other women, the monthly allowance she gets by with is lower than most men’s – because in addition to an early retirement due to injury, she also had to temporarily leave the workforce to raise her children.
Women also retire with less because we still get paid less for the same work, and frequently, we are lower paying positions or lines of work. The inequality we face haunts us for the rest of our lives…. When we earn less, we save less into social security, and less money goes into our 401ks, if we’re lucky enough to have one.
Add in the fact that women live longer than men, and we are faced with impossible odds…. We have less money, and must stretch it to last for longer than our male peers. So it’s no surprise that women are far more likely than men to retire into poverty.
My children are in their twenties and face a difficult path to retirement. My daughter is raising her own children now, and has not found a job that will provide retirement benefits…. It’s sad to say that she will face nearly the same wage inequality in today’s workforce that her grandmother did two generations before her. And I know we are all worried that if some politicians get their way, the same level of social security benefits the older generations enjoyed will no longer be there for her when she retires.
We all hope to leave our children better of than we were at their age, but without a serious change in the inequality facing women and girls, an entire generation could not only be far worse off than their mothers, millions of daughters like mine could be forced to work until they die.