72 percent of older women suffer income loss when their spouse dies

The death of a spouse leaves you not only emotionally vulnerable, but financially
at risk – particularly if you’re a woman, according to a Statistics
Canada study.

Women fare much worse than men when their spouses die, says the study. In fact,
the median adjusted income for older women declined 15 per cent five years after
a death of a spouse. (The median is the amount where one-half of the population
is above, and the other half is below.) This compared with an income rise of
5.8 per cent for men over the same time period, according to the report.

Overall, 51 per cent of senior men suffered a loss of income after five years
of widowhood, compared with 72 per cent of women.

The study, called The Death of a Spouse and the Impact on Income,
also revealed that 8.7 per cent of senior widows fell below the low-income threshold
compared to 5.1 per cent of widowers.

Loss of pension accounted for a 28.6 per cent decline in adjusted income for
widows, as compared to only 1.1 per cent for widowers.

Other findings suggested:

• In the first year, the median family income of those women went from
$24,40 to $24,000.

• The decline continued, so that after five years, the median income
was down 9.8 per cent.

• By comparison, the median income of senior women who remained married
declined by 1.5 per cent over five years.

• Women of all income levels suffered financial losses after the death
of a spouse. Five years after the death of the husband, the richest widows experienced
an 8.6 per cent decline, compared with a 9.8 per cent drop among the poorest.

Widowed women accounted for 45 per cent of all women older than 65. Senior
widows outnumbered senior widowers by four to one.

Further, women have a life expectancy of 81 years, compared to 75 years for
men, so women are expected increasingly to live alone in their senior years.

A 2004 Statistics Canada study titled Widowhood: Consequences on Income
for Senior Women
similarly found that widows had a difficult time recovering
financially after the death of a spouse.

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