Financial Well Being of Older Women

Often neglected in the studies of financial well being is the wealth of various households. Wealth, unlike income, is related to the accumulation of valuable assets over a lifetime. It is not surprising that one may accumulate possessions, especially houses, as one ages.

In this study, a first of its kind, researchers evaluated older women’s wealth holdings in six countries: U. S., U.K., Germany, Italy, Finland, and Sweden. Using the Luxembourg Wealth Study (LWS), wealth and income was analyzed in older women’s households.

Surprisingly, they discovered that older women’s wealth holdings surpass the national averages in all countries. “Older women’s households in the United States report the highest level of median net worth across these six countrie.” Their net financial worth is 4 times the average of all households in the U. S. The home ownership rate of older women’s households in America is 82%, and this is the basis for their wealth in most cases.

Despite this foundation of wealth, it is not adequate for maintaining a satisfactory standard of living or financial well being. “The surest way to prevent economic hardship among older women, and men, is to provide a floor under older households’ incomes through government transfers. As our results suggest, self-protection through wealth accumulation alone is not sufficient.”


From: The Income and Wealth Packages of Older Women in Cross-National Prespective by Janet C. Gornick, Eva Sjerminska, & Timothy M. Smeeding. The Journals of Gerontology, 2009, 64B, 402-414.

About Cathy Severson

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