Washington, DC – To address the unique challenges that women face in planning for retirement, a group of bipartisan senators introduced S. 3951, the “Women’s Retirement Security Act.” Cosponsored by Senators Gordon H. Smith (R-OR), Kent Conrad (D-ND), John Kerry (D-MA) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the legislation works to narrow the retirement income gap between men and women by creating new opportunities for retirement saving.

“Preparing for retirement and achieving financial security is essential for all Americans, especially women,” said Senator Smith. “Due to their unique circumstances, women often receive significantly less income during retirement than men from all three legs of the retirement income stool – Social Security, pensions and personal savings. This legislation works to level the playing field in the area of retirement savings to ensure financial security for women during their retirement years.”

"Too often, women reach retirement age without adequate savings. Additionally, women typically live longer than men and need even more savings to retire," Senator Conrad said. "This legislation provides practical incentives to help women take control of their financial futures."

“This legislation is about making sure mothers, sisters, and wives have the retirement security they deserve,” said Senator Kerry. “The Women’s Retirement Security Act of 2006 includes provisions for small businesses to realistically offer and maintain a pension plan for their employees. Offering automatic IRAs will provide a sensible, low-cost solution to help approximately 71 million workers without an employer-sponsored plan become more independent and enter their later years with confidence.”

“This legislation helps address many of the inequalities in our current retirement system that unfairly affects women. It also is a bold step toward making sure that all workers will have some type of retirement account,” Senator Bingaman said.

The legislation will require employers to allow long-term, part-time employees to make contributions to a 401(k) plan. In addition, employers that currently do not sponsor a retirement plan would be required to allow employees to contribute a portion of their salary to an IRA. The bill also will encourage small businesses to enter and remain in the employer retirement plan system through tax incentives and simplification of some of the more onerous retirement plan rules.