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  • 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. 


    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!



    Considering Housing Costs in Retirement

    August 10th, 2017

    TaxesThere are many things to think about as you approach retirement. Chief among them is how you will spend the money you have saved. It is difficult to know how long your retirement savings will need to last, so it is important to be frugal. However, spending too little money can also be detrimental to your personal safety, health and happiness. Finding the right balance between over and under spending requires planning ahead and budgeting. One of the most important things to consider when doing so are the various costs you will have during retirement, including health care and housing.

    When it comes to your housing during retirement, there is a lot of discussion of “livability.” But what does livability really mean? For a retired person, it can mean a lot of things. AARP created a livability index that scores different zip codes based on categories that included: housing (affordability and access), neighborhood (access to life, work and play), transportation (safe and convenient options), environment (clean air and water), health (prevention, access and quality), engagement (civic and social involvement) and opportunity (inclusion and possibilities). All of these things are important to consider when making retirement housing decisions, but most important of all is overall affordability.

    Many people want to “age in place,” which means continuing to live in the same home until the end of life, but doing so can become extremely costly. Oftentimes, homes will have to be retrofitted and remodeled to make them easier to use. This may include a stair glide, an elevator, a walk in tub, shower seats, and widened doors. These costs can total tens of thousands of dollars. Additional costs of aging in place include home health care services, cleaning services and meal delivery. Take these costs into consideration if you plan to age in place, and determine whether it is the best option. Oftentimes, it can be easier and more cost-effective to move out of a longtime home upon retirement into something better equipped for you as you age.

    There are many resources that can help you determine whether your best housing option in retirement is to age in place or move somewhere else, whether in your current area or somewhere totally new. The aforementioned AARP livability index provides helpful comparisons, as does Genworth Financial, which offers a tool that compares the average costs of home health care, adult day health care, assisted living facilities and nursing home care across states. Helpfully, it also allows calculation of future costs. Also take into account local tax laws when considering where to move—they can vary greatly and substantially impact how long your retirement savings can last. WISER’s fact sheets on long-term care are useful resources for retirement housing budgeting.

    Finally, keep in mind that if you have a definitive idea of how and where you see yourself living out your retirement years, it takes planning and preparation now to make those plans a reality.

    How To Talk to Older Adults About Financial Abuse

    June 28th, 2017

    hand in retirement jar

    June is an important month for raising awareness about  financial elder abuse. In fact, June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day , when organizations around the world focus their resources on highlighting the issue of elder abuse and working to prevent it. Part of WISER’s mission is to protect older Americans from financial fraud and abuse.

    One of the most common forms of elder abuse is financial elder abuse—when older people are taken advantage of financially. Scam artists prey on retirees who may have amassed large amounts of savings, but have dwindling mental faculties, meaning they are less likely to stop or report the crime. Although people often think of con men as smooth, fast-talking strangers, perpetrators are frequently family, friends or neighbors, who abuse the trust of the victim. Especially troubling, considering they are already at a disadvantage financially, is the fact that women are twice as likely as men to be the victims of senior financial abuse.

    If you suspect that an older person in your life is being victimized by a financial scammer, it is important to take action immediately. If there is physical danger, call 911. If it is not an immediate emergency, contact your state’s Adult Protective Services.

    Whether you suspect they may be a victim or not, it is important to talk to older people in your life about financial elder abuse. It can be challenging to do so because oftentimes, you may be talking to an authority figure or someone who is used to teaching you about things, not vice versa (for example, a parent). The best way to approach the difficult task is to divide it into three parts. First, present the facts. Second, listen to what they have to say. Third, make a plan. Most importantly of all, have the conversation as you would with a friend or peer. Talking down to older adults can be insulting to the senior and cause people to tune out your advice, no matter how important or well-meaning it is.

    1. Present the Facts

    Explain how common elder abuse is: studies estimate annual financial loss nationwide to be around $2.9 billion. For that reason, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It truly could happen to anyone. Most victims are between the ages of 80 and 89, live alone, and require some sort of help with either health care or home maintenance. Women are twice as likely as men to be victimized. The perpetrators are most frequently strangers (51% of the time), but it is also common for them to be family, friends or neighbors (34% of the time). For that reason, always be vigilant about giving away money, regardless of whom it is going to. Sixty percent of perpetrators are men. There are many different types of senior financial abuse, but the most common are telemarketing and internet fraud, identity theft and credit card fraud, the grandparent scam (pretending to be a grandchild in order to convince the senior to wire money), sweepstakes and lottery scams, and investment schemes and fraud. For more information on these types of scams and what they look and sound like, check out WISER’s fact sheet on the topic.

    By first laying out out the facts in a non-judgmental tone, the older people in your life will understand this is an issue we all need to be prepared for, as well as able to consider whether they may potentially have been victimized already.

    2. Listen

    After making sure the older person in your life understands what financial abuse is, the next step is to listen. Who have they interacted with recently? Some people are embarrassed to admit they may have been scammed, so a kind, understanding ear is important.

    3. Make a Plan

    The third and final step is to make a plan to protect against future abuse. Think hard about who has access to financial accounts. Remember to never turn cash over to anyone and be skeptical about anyone asking you to wire money. Remove your name from solicitation lists,  and if someone comes to you asking for money or with an offer, say you need time to consider. If pressure tactics are used (“you must do this now”), then be even more skeptical of its legitimacy. For more tips, see WISER’s fact sheet on protecting your income.

    If someone thinks he or she may have been the victim of abuse, contact your state’s Adult Protective Services, and stick around as he or she talks to their representatives.

    If you are wondering whether it is the right time to start having this conversation, know that it is never too early. Visit WISER’s financial elder abuse resource page for more information.


    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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