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  • You’ve Made Your Financial Resolutions. Here’s How To Actually Keep Them.

    January 18th, 2018

    octopus woman juggling many thingsAt the turn of every New Year, the internet is filled with lists of resolutions—ones that will help you get in shape, or improve your mood, or strengthen your relationships. Our favorite lists offer resolutions to help you get (or keep) your savings on track. The start of the year is a great time to set financial resolutions, and numerous websites offered great lists of financial goals for 2018. But much harder than setting the goals is actually keeping them. The former only takes a moment, the latter takes dedication and commitment, day after day, week after week. Commitment to resolutions tends to fade a few weeks into the year—people stop going to the gym, stop eating healthy, and, unfortunately, stop saving like they promised they would. Here’s our advice on not just the financial resolutions you should make, but how to keep them.

    Keep track of your progress.

    Many goals are unquantifiable, making it hard to know whether your efforts are worthwhile. That can prove to be an obstacle, but luckily, financial goals are easy to keep track of. Seeing the dollars rise in your account is a motivation to keep going. Downloading an app that tracks your savings can make this simple and will do all the calculations for you. Many banks and retirement plans offer them. Check out WISER’s blog post, “Save or spend? How apps can help you stay on track,” for a review of what’s available.

    If a goal is proving too difficult, reassess it, rather than dropping it all together.

    There is no shortage of recommendations for how much you should be saving. This financial new year’s resolutions list, for example, suggests that people save 15% of their gross incomes. If you make $60,000 a year that would be a savings goal of $750 per month. The percentage you should aim to save depends on a number of variables including your age and financial stability, but many people may find these goals hard to meet. WISER’s Seven Life-Defining Financial Decisions booklet offers advice on how to set the right goal for yourself.  If you can’t save 15%, don’t get discouraged. Instead of keeping the number too high and continuously failing to meet it, try readjusting your goal until you reach a level that is doable and appropriate. This will likely stop you from throwing away the goal completely.

    Work on one goal per month, rather than all of them at once.

    Many use the start of a year as a time to set goals, but why not the start of the month? Rather than loading yourself up with ten new financial tasks all at once, try adding in one new goal per month, so that by the time the month is over and it’s time to add a new goal, the first has already become a habit. January is a great time to create a budget or review the one you have, and the start of each new month would offer a chance to reassess that budget and your spending and savings habits. WISER’s Budget worksheet is a great resource to help get you thinking about your monthly income and expenses. In February, make a commitment to prioritize your debts—meaning analyzing all the debt you have, and figuring out what is the priority to pay off, based off which has the highest interest rate. Continuing setting a new financial goal each month and watch your financial confidence grow!

    Ask for help.

    Finally, remember that although many see finances as something that is private, talking to family and friends about your goals can be extremely helpful. Finding a buddy who is also trying to save, or who can offer advice, will make it much more likely that you reach your goals.

    How To Keep Retirement Savings On Track While Caregiving

    November 30th, 2017

    women

    November is National Family Caregivers Month—an annual event celebrated by WISER and partner organizations of family caregivers across the country. It’s a time to raise awareness of family caregiver issues, celebrate their efforts and increase support. This month’s theme “Caregiving Around the Clock” emphasizes that caregiving is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week job.

    Caregiving is a consuming role—physically, mentally and financially—yet many who take on the work don’t identify with the job or fully realize the toll it takes. Often, it comes on unexpectedly, and sometimes the responsibilities may be shared. For example, caring for an elderly parent might be divided between siblings or a paid worker. Still, even if you are doing the actual work of caregiving part-time or just a few hours a week, the effort affects every part of your life. It becomes something you have to think about and plan for around the clock.

    The financial challenges of caregiving often come as a surprise to caregivers, as the day-to-day costs can really add up. Many smart retirement planners who believe that they have everything properly planned for are still often unprepared for the financial shock that caregiving for a family member can bring.  Even if the role of caregiver comes unexpectedly, there are ways to keep your retirement savings on track while caring for others.

    Create, and stick to, a household budget.

    Caregiving can affect your daily and long term spending in unexpected ways. That’s why it’s important to create and follow a budget. If you already have one, adjust it to consider your new expenditures. You may also have a lower income if you decide to stop working or reduce your hours. While you’re at it, have financial conversations with the person you’re providing care for, too. It’s easy for costs to balloon, and when mental and physical capacities diminish, the elderly can also be at an increased risk for being victimized by financial scammers.

    Try to avoid leaving your job.

    It can be tempting (or in some cases a necessity) to run to a loved one’s side when they need care. Doing so, though, can be extremely harmful to your finances. Leaving your job will mean losing compensation and benefits, and maybe skills and contacts. If at all possible, try to exhaust all other options before leaving your job or see if you can at least work reduced hours instead of quitting entirely.  If you have a retirement plan or pension through your employer, try to work at least as long as needed to be fully vested in your company’s retirement plan. If you are cutting back on hours, see if there is a minimum number of hours you can work to get reduced benefits.

    Be smart about the financial support you provide your loved ones

    Don’t drain your savings to help the person you are caring for financially. Usually, the major expense for older adults is health care. Drug plans run through Medicare and private companies may help cover the rising costs of medicine. Low-income seniors may also be eligible to receive help paying their premiums or for additional uncovered medical costs. Information about getting help paying for Medicare costs is available at Medicare.gov. The Eldercare Locator, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging is also a great resource for connecting with trusted resources in your community that can help with caregiving and other services for older adults and their families.  Visit eldercare.gov or call 1-800-677-1116.

    For more information and resources for managing your finances while caregiving, download WISER’s publication: Financial Steps for Caregivers. Included in the booklet is a budget worksheet that includes categories for caregiving costs.

    WISER’s 2017 Symposium: Wrap-Up & Highlights

    September 28th, 2017

    On September 19, 2017, nearly 150 participants engaged on the issue WISER cares about most—women’s retirement security. The event was WISER’s 2017 Symposium: The Gender Story: A Symposium on Retirement Solutions for Women. 

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    The event began with opening remarks by WISER’s president, Cindy Hounsell, who set the tone for the event. She noted that since its inception, WISER has been working to help women navigate their financial lives towards a secure and stable retirement, and while much progress has been made, there is still so much work to be done. Following Cindy’s remarks, a dialogue on the gender story began. Kerry Hannon, who also wrote about the event, is an author and financial journalist. She along with the two other panelists, Catherine Collinson from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies and Jennifer Putney from Portfolio Evaluations, emphasized the importance of helping women to become confident when it comes to money issues.

    “Women have to get comfortable talking about money,” Putney said. “Talk about money with your friends. You don’t have to compare personal balance sheets, but you can talk conceptually.” Make a habit of it and planning for retirement will get easier.

    Mary Lazere gave the keynote address at WISER's 2017 Symposium.

    After that dialogue, which set the stage for the rest of the day, four panels of presenters covered the following topics: “Research and Strategies,” “A Ripple Effect- Expanding Retirement Literacy & Retirement Income,” “Opportunities for Change?,” and a congressional panel of Capitol Hill staff who discussed the status of current retirement policies. In between, attendees heard a keynote address from Mary Lazare, the principal deputy administrator at the Administration for Community Living, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Lazare explained that even for her, the challenges of being a woman and saving for retirement have been immense. She told of becoming a single mother and the financial strain and worry that presented.  But she also noted that savings can be transformative; once people start to save and see that savings grow, it can motivate them to keep going.

    Some stark figures were shared during the event. Janice Co, from Prudential Retirement, revealed that even though women now make up about half of the workforce, their retirement balances are on average about a third of men’s. She referred to Prudential’s study on women and the retirement income gender gap. A comprehensive study on caregivers, presented by Collinson and her colleague at Transamerica, Hector De La Torre, discovered that caregivers who make $25,000 pay about $100 per month on caregiving—making it extremely difficult to save for the future. This new study was released the day of the event. Additional presenters shared some of the many resources available to help people navigate complicated systems like Medicare, (The Medicare Rights Center) and prevent financial fraud and abuse among seniors (EverSafe).

    Materials from the event are available on WISER’s events page. The National Association of Plan Advisors also wrote up a great summary of the event.

    WISER is grateful to the speakers, participants, sponsors and partners who helped make the symposium a great success. Stay tuned to our website and facebook page for future WISER events!

     

     

    WISER

    About Us

    WISER is a nonprofit organization that works to help women, educators and policymakers understand the important issues surrounding women's retirement income. WISER creates a variety of consumer publications including fact sheets, booklets and a quarterly newsletter that explain in easy-to-understand language the complex issues surrounding Social Security, divorce, pay equity, pensions, savings and investments, banking, home-ownership, long-term care and disability insurance.

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