Health issues put gay workers at risk of retirement poverty

Over half of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people retire earlier than planned – putting them at risk of poverty in their senior years. Aegon’s survey finds that the most common reason for this is ill-health.

Cover of Aegon's LGBT and Retirement reportMatt Rider, CFO of Aegon, explores the long-term financial and future retirement-related risks of doing so but asks: are we all really considering this?

This International Women's Day, I've been thinking a bit about disparities between women and men in their preparedness for retirement. Despite the fact that the proportion of women and men with university degrees is now almost the same (58% compared to 60%, respectively), an alarming pattern emerges in terms of how women and men participate in the workforce.

Globally, among people who are working, women are twice as likely as men to work part-time. Here in the Netherlands, where I live and work, half of women who are employed indicate that they work part-time. More than a third of women in Australia, Japan and the UK are doing the same.

Those who were openly gay faced discrimination in all aspects of life, including in the workplace. They also suffered the consequences of the AIDS crisis.

The report 'LGBT: Retirement Preparations Amid Social Progress', LINK! is one of the first to explore LGBT retirement preparations on a global basis. Based on the responses of 900 online participants who self-identified as LGBT, the survey was conducted in nine countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The comparison group consisted of almost 8,500 heterosexual people across the nine countries.

Poorer health among the old
Data from the survey shows that LGBT people across all age groups are slightly more likely than heterosexuals to report their health as poor (29% versus 26%), but the differences increase as people get older, with 39% of LGBT people aged 55 and older reporting poor health compared with 32% of non-LGBT people.

The survey report highlights that LGBT workers share the same aspirations as heterosexuals to retire at age 65 and enjoy around 20 years of retirement. That more than half of LGBT retired sooner than they planned, and in many cases due to ill-health, means that they have fewer years to save for their retirement, and are at greater risk of living in poverty in older age

Explaining the LGBT health gap
When it comes to living more healthily, there's clearly room for improvement for many of those surveyed. The report also highlights how individual lifestyle choices have an impact on LGBT health in particular. This confirms the findings of previous studies investigating the health problems of older LGBT people. For example, compared to heterosexuals, 6% fewer LGBT respondents try to avoid harmful behaviors such as drinking too much and smoking. These are decision that may only affect a person's health later in life.