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Closing Wage Gap Would Boost Retirement Security for WY Women

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Wednesday, March 24, 2021   

LARAMIE, Wyo. - Women in Wyoming earn just 70 cents for every dollar a man makes, and that wage gap plays a deciding role in how and when women can securely retire.

Public-sector pension programs play a critical role in keeping retirees out of poverty, said Anastasia Marchese, state coordinator for the Wyoming Coalition for a Healthy Retirement. But because pensions are tied to salaries, she said, employers and policymakers should focus on increasing economic opportunities for women to close both the wage and retirement gap.

"If I'm a woman in Wyoming making 70 cents for a dollar that a man makes, that percentage of a retirement match from the state is based on my pay," she said. "So, if I'm paid less, I'm getting less retirement."

Wednesday is national Women's Equal Pay Day, a date symbolizing how far into the new year a woman has to work to earn what a man earned in the previous year. Marchese said women make up 60% of the public-sector workforce, and urged Wyoming lawmakers to protect public workers' pensions as the state wrestles with a $750 million budget shortfall.

Private-sector companies that offer retirement benefits largely have abandoned pensions, in favor of lower-cost contributions to individual retirement accounts including 401(k)s, with values linked to the stock market. Marchese said pensions provide stable support for Wyoming's state and local economies, because they provide guaranteed income levels to retirees.

"So, when we say 'protect pensions for women,' that ultimately translates back into protecting pensions for all workers," she said, "which essentially provides lots of economic stimulus in their own communities."

Every dollar paid out to retirees in Wyoming creates $1.12 in economic activity. As the economic fallout from the pandemic continues to disproportionately affect women, Marchese said, it's more important than ever to protect their pensions.


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