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  • 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.

     

    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

    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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