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  • Archive for 2017

    Plan Ahead and Spend Smart to “Age Out Loud”

    Thursday, May 25th, 2017

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    May is Older Americans Month. Led by the Administration for Community Living and the Administration on Aging, WISER joins with organizations across the country to celebrate older Americans and their unique contributions to society. This month’s theme is Age Out Loud.

    “Age Out Loud” means something different for everyone. For some, it might mean traveling to new countries upon retirement. For others, it might mean participating in social activities, like sports leagues, book clubs, or going out to dinner. It might mean spending quality time with loved ones, volunteering or engaging in community or civic events.

    Regardless of how you define aging out loud, there is a common truth to doing so: you want options about how you’ll live, where you’ll live, who you’ll live with and what kind of care you’ll receive. You’ll want the freedom to make choices. Being able to choose what’s best for you in retirement requires planning ahead and saving.

    If you are already retired, being able to age out loud in the future also means understanding your resources and how best to use them. First, take stock of your sources of income. Oftentimes, those include Social Security and employer-sponsored retirement plans–like a pension or 401(k).

    Once you take stock of your sources of income and their values, consider your spending needs, and how they are likely to change as your retirement goes on. Take into account factors like inflation, taxes, your likelihood of living many years, how you plan to invest and spend your assets, and whether you plan to leave anything to your heirs. It is difficult to know how long your retirement will last, but there are predictions available based on how old you currently are. If you turned 65 in 2005, there is about a 50 percent chance that you will live until at least age 85. It is also difficult to know how much your medical care and insurance will cost during insurance. The federal Medicare program covers almost all Americans, but is unlikely to cover all of your medical needs.

    Don’t just plan for the day you retire- plan for the days, months, years and even decades that may follow. Aging Out Loud, whatever that means to you, demands it.

    Here’s Why Financial Literacy Is For Everyone

    Thursday, April 20th, 2017

    little blog pictureApril is Financial Literacy Month.

    “Financial Literacy” is a somewhat new term and trend in the United States, and for that reason, some find it off-putting and discouraging. Don’t let the fancy phrasing scare you, though. The reality is, financial literacy simply means knowledge about money and savings. Even though most of us didn’t learn the basics of financial knowledge in an educational setting (hopefully that will change in the future!), important, life-changing saving information is easily within reach.

    In fact, understanding of the importance of financially literacy only became widespread in the past fifteen years or so. In 2002, the U.S. Department of Treasury created the Office of Financial Education as a way to organize its efforts in the area. The next year, Congress passed the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act, which established the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, a group that later published a “National Strategy on Financial Literacy.”

    That means that, hopefully, financial education will become a standard and required part of education. However, just because it wasn’t something you learned about in school doesn’t mean you cannot become extremely knowledgeable on investing, saving, retirement and other financial topics. It is important for everyone to educate themselves about their finances, but know that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart decisions. Some basic information can go a long way.

    In particular, it is important to know what you should be doing at every stage of life to make sure you are on track financially and preparing for long term financial security. WISER’s “7 Life Defining Financial Decisions” booklet breaks down key topics into stages and explains how to approach each one.

    For example, when it comes to jobs and careers, when taking a job, consider not only salary but also benefits. There are two basic kinds of employer-sponsored pension plans: defined benefit and defined contribution plans. When leaving a job, it is important to consider that changing jobs, even for higher pay, can cost you a bundle in lost benefits and retirement income. If at some point in your life you decide to stay home full time, think through the family finances, including retirement planning. Where there are large upsides, you will lose compensation, benefits, job skills and contacts if you leave work completely.

    The booklet offers more advice on financial decision-making at every stage of life. By focusing on life stages and basic information, financial literacy is within reach for everyone.

    Why Saving As A Young Person Is Important

    Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

    “Live while you’re young!” “Youth is wasted on the young!” “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” “Live in the moment!”

    Everywhere they turn, young people are inundated with messages encouraging them to live now, worry later. In financial terms, that translates to “spend now, save later”—and it’s a hard message to ignore. The internal justifications to spend instead of save often sound like this: all of my friends are planning an expensive trip overseas, why shouldn’t I join them? Why not rack up credit card debt—I’ll be able to pay it off later, when I’m older and have a higher paying job! I’m only young once!

    The same mentality leads to young people to taking out large amounts of student loans, beyond what they may be able to afford or what may be worthwhile. According to new research from the National Endowment for Financial Education, more than 70% of millennials (people ages 23 to 35) have at least one long-term debt, which could be student loans or something else, like a car loan. About 34% of millennials have two long-term loans. These numbers alone are troubling, but to make matters even worse, the research also found that about a quarter of millennials with a retirement account took out a loan or hardship withdrawal in the last 12 months. This emphasizes that many young people are prioritizing the present much more than the future when it comes to finances.

    This trend is putting young people at a serious financial disadvantage—making it more difficult to purchase a home, open a business, or pursue other ventures later in life. Here are several additional reasons why saving as a young person is important:

    Financial Habits Are Set When You’re Young

    The same holds true for any habit: the earlier you adopt it and the more often you carry it out, the more likely it is to stick. Being smart with money is no different. If you are careless about money for most of your life, it will be extremely difficult to switch gears and become a scrupulous saver once there is truly something to save for—like a child or a home. The inverse is also true. If you are smart with money from a young age and put in place good habits, like putting a certain amount of your paycheck each month into savings, you are likely to carry those habits later in life.

    Saving a Little Now Equals A Lot Once You Retire

    We often hear about “the power of compound interest.” We,ll that power is only powerful if you start saving young. The more years that go by, the more powerful compound interest becomes. If you save a little bit as a young person, that money will accrue interest and, by the time it’s time to retire 30 or so years later, a little bit of money will have grown into a lot of money. You can only take advantage of this is if you save early.

    Cost of Living Grows As You Age

     It’s easy to assume that because you can support yourself now, you’ll be able to do so later. However, the cost of living grows dramatically as you age. The odds increase that you will become a caregiver, in terms of both finances and time, for an aging parent or a child. Medical costs also increase as you age. Your salary will also likely grow, but it may not grow enough to support these costs, let alone enough to put aside enough for retirement, when your income will decrease dramatically. Saving early helps ensure financial stability throughout your entire life.

    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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