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  • Archive for March, 2015

    Campaign for a Secure Retirement: March Blog Series #3

    Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

    What Working Women Need to Know

    As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we celebrate all the incredible accomplishments and contributions that women have made and continue to make in every area of life.  The working world is no exception.  Yet despite gains in education and employment, statistics still show that women are paid less, have less money in savings, and are ultimately more likely to experience poverty in old age.  While some barriers to financial security are systemic, other barriers result from simple inaction or lack of information.  Working women are busy women, but we can’t ignore our retirement planning.  We all want to live with dignity and security in our later years, but that doesn’t come without proper planning and saving right now.

    A great place to get started is by making sure you can answers some key questions about your own retirement plans, as well as any plans your spouse or partner may have.  WISER’s “Working Woman’s Retirement Plan Checklist” can get you started.  Understanding your Social Security benefit is also an important part of this process.  You can access your Social Security statement online by setting up an account at “my Social Security.” Getting an estimate of your future Social Security benefits can help you figure out how much more you will need to save in order to have enough income in retirement.

    Social Security ArchMany employers provide a variety of benefits that go beyond the two biggest — health care and retirement plans.  Additional benefits may include: life insurance, disability insurance, long-term care insurance, and flexible spending accounts.  In the changing world of do-it-yourself retirement, it’s up to you to know what your employer provides, and take advantage of those opportunities that can protect your financial future.  For tips and ideas about how to make the most of your company benefits, check out WISER’s brochure, “20 Ways to Take Advantage of Your Company Benefits Plan.”

    If you do not have retirement benefits through your employer, considering opening an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), or learn about other ways to save and invest.  Our first blog in this series covers some of this information in more depth.  If you missed it, check it out now.

    Women also continue to be the primary caregivers, and many working women at some point in their lives may find themselves faced with having to reduce work hours or leave a job entirely in order to care for an aging parent or relative.  While there may not always be a choice to leave a job, it is important to do all you can to keep your own financial well-being on track while caring for someone else.  Use tools like www.benefitscheckup.org  to see if your care recipient is eligible for other benefits and services that can help cover some of their costs and service needs.  Engage other family members in the care planning process in an effort to share both the physical and financial responsibilities so that they are not all placed on any one single person.  For more tips and resources, download “Financial Steps for Caregivers: What You Need to Know about Protecting Your Money and Retirement.”

    Thank you for joining our Women’s History Month blog series.  Let’s all make a little history ourselves in the coming year by planning, saving and getting on track for a secure financial future!

     

    The “Campaign for a Secure Retirement:  Helping Millions of Americans Plan and Save for Retirement”  is a joint educational retirement campaign to encourage retirement planning and saving and to promote the online Social Security Statement, available through my Social Security, as an important retirement planning tool.  Campaign partners include the Social Security Administration, America Saves, American Savings Education Council, and WISER.  If your organization wants to help others understand the importance of saving for retirement, take our pledge

    Campaign for a Secure Retirement: March Blog Series #2

    Thursday, March 26th, 2015

    Hello, Social Security! Get to know your benefits and your statement.

    Social Security CardSocial Security is a critical piece of the retirement puzzle, and this is especially true for women.  According to the Social Security Administration, women represent 57 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries age 62 and older and approximately 68 percent of all beneficiaries age 85 and older.  For 36 percent of unmarried female beneficiaries 65 and older (this includes widowed, divorced, or never married), Social Security is virtually the only source of income (90 percent or more), compared to 21 percent of married females in this age group.* Without Social Security, nearly half of women 65 and older would be poor.

    Another important feature of Social Security is that your benefit is guaranteed for as long as you live, and benefits are annually adjusted for inflation. The longer you live, the more likely you are to exhaust other sources of income.  For women who have longer life expectancies than men on average, Social Security is often the only source of guaranteed lifetime income they receive in retirement.  The average Social Security benefit for women 65 and older is currently about $13,500 per year.

    Despite the vital role Social Security plays in our future financial security, many of us do not really understand how it works.  What will my benefit be?  When should I claim it? What happens if I am or if I become divorced or widowed?  If you can’t answer these questions, it’s time to get to know your Social Security benefit better.

    The best place to start is to set up an account through “my Social Security” on the Social Security Administration’s website.  You can use this account to keep track of your earnings and verify them every year; get an estimate of your future benefits if you are still working; get a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them; and manage your benefits.  Through this account you can also access your online Social Security statement—a very valuable tool in your retirement planning. For example, this statement can help you to estimate your Social Security income in retirement and then determine how much money you will need to supplement your benefits. The statement will also give you details about your spouse’s and dependents’ possible benefits if you die, as well as your disability benefits if you were to become disabled.

    When to claim Social Security is also one of the most important financial decisions you can make, but it can be difficult to make this decision.  Each woman’s situation is unique—single, married, divorced or widowed—so it’s important to learn about the different options and benefit amounts before you apply for Social Security benefits. Married couples also have additional claiming options and are eligible for benefits based on their own record or their spouse’s benefit.

    Check out the Social Security section of WISER’s website for more tips, information and articles such as, The Case of the Growing Social Security Benefit, and Making the Most of Social Security Retirement Benefits if You’re Divorced.   More great information is also available on the Social Security Administration website.

    Take the time and get to know your Social Security benefits—you can’t afford not to!

     

    The “Campaign for a Secure Retirement:  Helping Millions of Americans Plan and Save for Retirement”  is a joint educational retirement campaign to encourage retirement planning and saving and to promote the online Social Security Statement, available through my Social Security, as an important retirement planning tool.  Campaign partners include the Social Security Administration, America Saves, American Savings Education Council, and WISER.  If your organization wants to help others understand the importance of saving for retirement, take our pledge

     

    *National Women’s Law Center, Women and Social Security, February 23, 2015.

    Campaign for a Secure Retirement: March Blog Series #1

    Monday, March 16th, 2015

     

    What are you waiting for? Why women need to save more and how to get started.

     

    Saving is important for everyone, but women especially face unique challenges when it comes to saving and preparing for their retirement. Not only do women live longer than men on average, but they are also more likely to earn less than men over the course of their lifetimes and have less money in savings and pensions. Women often take time away from work for caregiving responsibilities, which impacts earnings, savings and ultimately their Social Security benefit as well. If you are not actively saving and planning for retirement, it’s time to look at yourself in the mirror and ask why not? Or better yet, tell yourself the time is now!

    There are common money mistakes women make throughout their lifetimes, but perhaps the biggest one is simply not doing anything; having good intentions but then letting weeks, years, and even decades go by before really paying attention to your finances and figuring how you will afford to live in retirement. If you have ever asked yourself when the best time is to start planning, the simple answer is right now!

    If you are ready to start, your next question might be, “where do I begin?” The first step is to take advantage of any retirement plans that might be offered through your employer. Find out what options your employer offers and what you need to do to maximize those benefits. If you are already in a plan, are you contributing at least enough to get any matching contributions from your employer? Can you afford to increase your contribution at least another 1%, 3% or even 5%? Check out WISER’s 20 Ways to Take Advantage of Your Company Benefits Plan brochure for more tips.

    If you don’t have a retirement plan at work, you might consider opening an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), which you can do through almost any large financial institution, including banks, mutual fund companies and brokerage firms. Read WISER’s fact sheets to learn more about a Roth IRA versus a Traditional IRA.   Keep in mind, you don’t need to be a financial guru to save and invest; you can start to make smart financial decisions with good, basic information. It can be overwhelming, but just start by learning the basics and build from there.

    Another new option fAnd my money goes to...or workers without access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan is the “My Retirement Account,” or myRA. Think of it as a starter retirement savings account; workers can open an account with as little as $25, and then contribute $5 or more a month through payroll deduction. In addition, you can withdraw funds from a myRA at any time, tax-free, and there are no fees which can often erode savings in smaller accounts. The myRA is administered by the U.S. Treasury, but once the savings balance hits $15,000, you then roll it into a private sector Roth IRA. Read WISER’s “10 Reasons to Say Yes to myRAs”, and visit the myRA section on the U.S. Treasury website to learn more about this exciting new savings option. Currently you can only fund a myRA using payroll deduction through your employer, but look out for more ways to contribute to a myRA account in the coming year.

    Finally, if you are staring at an empty savings account and starting from scratch, the most important thing you can do is find ways to save each day and start to build up your savings. It’s okay to start small—if you stick with it, you will see that savings account grow. As your savings increase, you can start to look at other ways to invest your money for retirement. WISER has lots of information to help you budget and save. For more great tips and ways to save, check out the America Saves Campaign at www.americasaves.org, and the Choose to Save program at www.choosetosave.org.

    Be sure to check out our blog next week to learn about the importance of Social Security for women’s retirement, with tips to help you better understand and maximize your benefits.

     

    The “Campaign for a Secure Retirement: Helping Millions of Americans Plan and Save for Retirement” is a joint, national educational retirement campaign to encourage retirement planning and saving and to promote the online Social Security Statement, available through my Social Security, as an important retirement planning tool. Campaign partners include the Social Security Administration, America Saves, American Savings Education Council, and WISER. If your organization wants to help others understand the importance of saving for retirement, take our pledge.

    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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