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  • Get to Know Your Social Security Benefit

    April 1st, 2018

    Social Security Arch

    April is Social Security Month (follow #SocialSecurityMonth on social media for more). While WISER is dedicated to promoting women’s financial security every month of the year, setting a month aside to focus on Social Security is a reminder of the importance of the benefit. It is never too early to start understanding Social Security benefits for both you and your loved ones. The more you learn now, the better prepared you will be in the future.

    Social Security is especially important for women because they are often more dependent on it than men. More men than women receive income from retirement plans and pensions: 4 out of 10 men, compared to 2 out of 10 women. Women’s work patterns are more likely to involve part-time work and moving in and out of the paid labor force to provide family care. For as long as this is the case, the benefits they receive from retirement plans or employer pensions will be lower than men’s. As a result, Social Security, which is portable from job to job and is cost-of-living adjusted at retirement, will remain the mainstay of retirement income for most women.

    Different people become eligible to receive Social Security payments at different times. This is why it is important to understand what benefits you are eligible for and when. As a worker, you must work and pay Social Security taxes for at least 10 years (40 quarters), and be at least 62 years old. As a spouse or divorced spouse, you must be at least 62 years old. If you are divorced, you must have been married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years and currently be unmarried. As a widow, you must be at least 60 years old (unless you are disabled in which case you can claim your benefit as early as age 50). If you are divorced, you can claim the survivors benefit if you were married at least 10 years and are currently unmarried (unless you remarried after age 60).

    However, when you actually receive benefits also depends on when you were born. You can receive full benefits at “full retirement age.” Full retirement age is increasing gradually until it reaches age 67 for those who were born 1960 or later. Find a chart that lists your birth year and when you can receive full benefits on WISER’s fact sheet, Social Security: What Every Woman Needs to Know. The fact sheet includes answers to many other Social Security questions you may have, including how to estimate what your benefits will be and how you will be taxed on your benefits. At what you claim your benefit is also important.  If you claim at age 62 when you are first eligible, you will receive a reduced benefit.  If you wait until after your full retirement age, you can receive an increased benefit up to age 70.

    Because Social Security is so important for retirement, there are many organizations and resources in addition to WISER that are dedicated to helping you understand and make the most out of it. Visit WISER’s Social Security resource page to learn more and find useful links, including to the Social Security Administration booklet, What Every Woman Should KnowThe page is also a great place to check for recent news on Social Security, such as the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for 2018. Each year, the Social Security Administration may increase benefits to help seniors with changes to the cost of living due to inflation and other factors. In 2018, monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will increase 2.0%.

    During National Social Security Month, take control of your future by seeing what you can do online at SocialSecurity.gov.  From estimating or managing your benefits, to retiring online, Social Security’s online services put control at your fingertips. Not sure where to begin? Sign up for your online Social Security account today at ssa.gov/myaccount.

    Women’s History Month: A Time to Reflect on Women’s Retirement Challenges

    March 23rd, 2018

    women-retirement-facts-FSL-graphic

    Guest author: Lori Lucas, President and CEO, Employee Benefit Research Institute

    As we observe Women’s History Month, themed, “Nevertheless, She Persisted,” there are things to celebrate when it comes to women’s potential retirement security. Women are participating in workplace savings plans at a higher rate than men at every income level, and their contribution rates are higher, too.[1]

    But women still face greater retirement challenges than men do—and ironically it’s due to their longevity. The typical woman can expect to outlive her male counterpart by 5 years (age 76 versus 81).[2] This alone carries financial ramifications.

    However, as WISER points out in its Impact of Retirement on Women Report, because women live so long, they are:

    – More likely to spend longer periods of time in a state of chronic disability

    – Less likely to have a spouse-caretaker

    In other words, not only are women likely to need to fund a longer retirement, they may also need to fund higher out-of-pocket health care costs in retirement as well.

    An upcoming EBRI Issue Brief explores how much women are paying in out-of-pocket medical expenses in retirement compared to men, using actual reported medical expense of older individuals from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS).[3]

    The data show that when it comes to women’s chances of entering a nursing home, at the age of 95 or later, women are 13.5 percentage points more likely to enter a nursing home than men. Once in a nursing home, expenses can be significantly higher for these older women than for their male counterparts. On average, the longest-lived women pay 44% more in cumulative out of pocket nursing home expenses than men ($75,310 and $52,365 respectively).

    Again, the most likely explanation for this is that women live longer as singles, and so don’t benefit from spouses or partners as caregivers the way men may. This may hasten women’s entry into nursing homes as well as increase their length of stay once there. In other words, the evidence is that women are more likely to need more financial resources than men to meet their health care expenses during retirement, especially in cases where women who outlive their caregiving spouse or partner.

    So how does this translate into women’s confidence in being able to retire comfortably? EBRI’s 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey finds only small differences between how women and men rate their confidence when it comes to various aspects of having enough retirement income

    However, not surprisingly, roughly half of married men and women say they believe they will have enough money in retirement to pay for long-term care costs compared to 31 percent of single women being confident versus 36 percent of single men.

    The results make several things clear: most single women are worried about their ability to sustain themselves in retirement, and this appears to be driven in good part by the specter of potential health care costs. But equally importantly, married women may be underestimating their likelihood of facing some of their retirement years alone—as well as the potential financial consequences.

    WISER has plenty of information available at www.wiserwomen.org to help women plan and prepare for their future. Here are some resources:

    10 Ways Women (and Men) can SAVE Themselves from Retirement Shortfalls

    The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing

    Don’t Run With Your Retirement Money: Understanding Your Resources and How Best to Use Them

    Financial Steps for Caregivers: What You Need to Know about Protecting Your Money and Retirement

    Social Security: What Every Woman Needs to Know

     

    [1] How America Saves – Women versus Men in DC Plans. October 2015.

    [2] Population Reference Bureau

    [3] Cumulative Out-of-Pocket Health Care Expenses after the Age of 70

    America Saves Week: Talking about Saving Helps You Save

    March 1st, 2018

    America Saves Week (February 26 – March 3, 2017) is an annual opportunity for individuals to assess their savings and take financial action. Each year, WISER and other organizations across the country encourage savers – or potential savers –to set a goal, make a plan, and save automatically.

    At WISER, it’s almost like every week is America Saves Week– we’ve made it our mission to encourage women to be financially independent and prioritize saving for their long-term future. But on this week in particular, organizations across the country emphasize the importance of financial planning. We share ideas and support and encourage each other– an event that mirrors something that’s important for you to do, in your own financial life: talk about savings with your friends. Although it can be sometimes seen as impolite or taboo, talking about money, and more specifically long-term saving, can help you achieve your financial goals. Here’s why:

    1. It holds you accountable.

    There’s nothing like outside observation to help us accomplish our goals, no matter what they may be. When we’re only accountable to ourselves, it’s easy to let things slip or not try as hard, but when someone else is in on the plan, the pressure is on! Tell your friends about the specific goals you have this month when it comes to saving– say, cooking dinner at home more than going out in order to save cash. Post pictures on social media of your meals! The positive encouragement from friends will motivate you, and when making the decision in the future about whether to eat at home or at a restaurant, eating at home will seem even more appealing. Talking to your friends about your savings goals will hold you accountable, too, because it will mean that there will be someone to remind you of your plan when you’re thinking of abandoning it.

    2. You friends may give you great ideas.

    People often don’t talk about their savings goals, so you never know who similarly may be taking smart steps towards their retirement like you. If you share your goals with others, you may learn that they too are on the same path, and can offer you great advice on how to get there.

    3. It helps others.

    In the same way that you may not know that your friends and family are taking smart steps toward saving, you also may not know how others in your life are struggling with their finances. If you talk to them about the steps you are taking to save– and why it is important to do so– it may motivate them to move forward in a similar way in their own lives. Sometimes all it takes is a little extra encouragement to get the ball rolling!

    There are many other reasons why it’s a great idea to talk about your savings goals with your friends and family. America Saves Week, in particular, is an opportunity for individuals to assess their own saving status. WISER is proud to be a partner in this annual campaign. Take the America Saves Pledge and join the #ImSavingForSweepstakes that asks savers to inspire friends and family to save by sharing their goal or savings story on social media. You could win up to $750 toward that goal.

    Visit America Saves for more savings tips and information, and check out WISER’s resources to help you save and plan for a more financially secure future.

     

    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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