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  • Archive for the ‘Mothers’ Category

    Thank you, Mom! A Story of Caregiving

    Thursday, November 28th, 2013

    This Thanksgiving, WISERs wants to thank all of the wonderful caregivers in America. As our last post for National Caregivers Month, we will share one personal story of a WISER staff member that can really tie some of the various topics of the month together.


    My mother was the caregiver of two of my grandparents, her frail and ailing mother and her aging father-in-law whom she viewed as a second father. Both were diagnosed with lung cancer in the same year, and although their paths took very different turns, my mother devoted most of her time to caring for them both.

    My grandmother actually began needing help a few years before her cancer diagnosis. She lived alone, after her husband for whom she cared for 20 years passed away from Alzheimer’s. One day she fell, broke her hip, and began a very long journey. She became ill, needed oxygen, required a walker, was in and out of rehabilitation centers, and eventually had to be moved closer to our home, although she still lived a significant distance. By the time she learned of her cancer, my mother had already cared for my grandmother for years. 

    My grandfather seemed to be doing pretty well until his diagnosis. He liked my mother to come visit him, but could still drive himself and do many of his errands himself. By the end, he needed her assistance with almost everything.

    My mother retired early for a couple or reasons, but mostly to take care of her parents. For years she drove them to almost every doctor appointment, radiation treatment, and physical therapy session. She did their grocery shopping, helped them with their finances, and picked up their medicines. It costs her gas money, lunches and dinners as she ran her errands, time at home—all common challenges of caregivers everywhere. It certainly wasn’t easy. Both of my grandparents had strong wills and despised what the disease and their treatments were doing to them. She was, unfortunately, the brunt of some of their anger and depression, which is another common experience amongst caregivers.

    My grandparents passed away in 2012, and I know that they were both content in their final days because of the care my mother gave them. She became their caregiver, even to her own financial detriment and mental health. My mother’s experience was not unique. In fact the average caregiver is 49, a woman with a career and children taking care of her widowed 69 year-old mother.

     I am thankful for my mother, and all caregivers who sacrifice for others. I hope that the blogs this month have assisted caregivers in facing the difficult circumstance and decisions they have to make, and hopefully it has helped others understand the problems caregivers face. November may be the month to focus on caregivers, but they deserve our respect and support every other month too.


    It is important to remember that becoming a caregiver can happen at any time, but often it may happen as you are nearing retirement. Even older adults who feel financially prepared for their own retirement may suddenly find themselves unprepared to manage the costs of caregiving.

    But it is equally important to remember that you are not alone. 66 million people in the U.S. provide unpaid care to a relative or friend. There are many resources available to make your task easier. WISER’s booklet, Financial Steps for Caregivers: What You Need to Know About Protecting Your Money and Retirement is a great place to start. Read it yourself, and share it with other caregivers you know!

    Parents, it is Time to Just Say No!

    Thursday, September 20th, 2012

    As a parent, you try to teach your children good money management skills. You teach them how to save and how to spend responsibly. But while you’re busy teaching them how to respect their own money, don’t forget to teach them to respect your money too.

    Many parents can get themselves into bad financial situations by spending too much money on their children, especially once their children are adults. Things like college tuition and weddings are expensive, and while every parent wants to help their children out financially, it is important to not do so to the detriment of your own retirement funds.

    Time’s Moneyland recently put out a list of “6 Myths About Saving for Retirement.” They ranked the belief that it is important to prioritize your child’s college tuition over your own retirement as the second biggest myth of all. Moneyland pointed out that while it isn’t the perfect solution, your kids can borrow to go to college and they have a lifetime to pay that money back. You don’t have a lifetime to save for retirement, so you need to put your retirement first.

    Another big expense that many parents face is their child’s wedding. But remember, while it is nice to be able to help your child cover some wedding costs, it is not your responsibility to do so. Jeopardizing your own secure retirement for your child’s wedding is not good for you or for your child in the long run. When the time comes, your kids will be thankful that you saved enough for retirement and that they don’t have to dip into their savings to take care of you.

    But the bigger issue here, bigger than your ability to say “no” and put your retirement first, is teaching your kids to not put you in a situation where you feel badly for doing so. Talk to your kids, explain to them how much you have saved and how much you still need to save. Explain to them that while the money may be technically there, such as in an IRA account or in the stock market, that does not mean that you have extra funds lying around that can be spent at any time. This money is earmarked for a certain place and time and your children need to understand this and respect it. Teach your kids to be respectful of your money and to not ask for unnecessary financial help from you. If you explain to them why it is important for you and for them that you save enough money for retirement, hopefully you won’t be put in the position of having to defend yourself when you find yourself having to say “No.”

    Finally, let go of the guilt. Taking care of yourself financially is not selfish. It is an important way of saying that you love your children and you are doing all you can to prevent yourself from becoming a financial burden down the road.

    Mama Mia: Mothers, Daughters and Money

    Monday, August 11th, 2008

    Like many movie-goers this summer, I recently watched Meryl Streep sashay across my local cinema screen in an outfit that resembled the spawn of a disco ball and a feather boa. Ms. Streep is one of the stars of this summer’s requisite wacky musical, Mama Mia. The film is an explosion of Abba-flavored kitsch, complete with tone-deaf serenades by former 007 Pierce Brosnan and abundant sequined strutting by Ms. Streep and her trio of fabulous friends.

    But what stands out in Mama Mia more than the glitter and infectious pop is the mother-daughter relationship. Meryl Streep is a business owner who has single handedly run her dream inn on limited means. Though she appears happy with the financial decisions she has made, she wants a better future for her daughter. She encourages her daughter to travel, pursue a career and delay wedded bliss so as to procure some financial and personal independence.

    Mothers have a wealth of financial planning information that they can offer their daughters as well as the other young women in their lives. Helping a young woman develop a strong financial plan is a lifetime gift. So, today, we’re taking a cue from those strong mother-daughter ties in Mama Mia and offering you WISER‘s top five list of Things Mothers can Tell Their Daughters about Retirement:

    1) Start Saving: Women tend to live longer and earn less than men. Wage discrimination makes it harder for women to set aside funds for retirement, but their longer lifespan makes it important to set aside more money than men. Make a financial plan that includes regular contributions to a retirement account early in your career, and stick to your plan.

    2) Saving Early Pays Off…literally:
    Compound interest makes it easier to accrue assets, but you need to start saving early to get the full benefits of compound interest. Consider this: a young woman saving $1,000 a year for ten years, from age 20 until age 30, and then saving nothing from age 30 to 58, will have $112,289 at age 58. A woman who starts saving at age 40, and saves $1,000 a year for ten years will have only $29,018 at age 58.

    3) Develop Good Habits: Get in the habit of having a household budget, developing long and short-term financial goals, saving money regularly and planning for a secure retirement.

    4) Protect Your Credit Rating: Pay all of your bills on time, do not charge more than you can afford to pay comfortably and avoid costly predatory loans. Women with poor credit ratings pay much higher interest rates on everything from mortgages to credit cards to personal loans. These costly loans and credit card accounts drain you financially and will keep you from acquiring assets you’ll need for a secure future, including a secure retirement.

    5) Make Sure You Participate in a Retirement Plan: If you are covered by a retirement plan at work, sign up for it and contribute as much as you can. If your employer will match some of your savings, don’t pass it up. If you don’t have access to a retirement plan at work, consider finding a job with better benefits. You can also open an IRA and contribute the maximum amount each year. Many women find that having regular contributions deducted from their checking accounts is an easier way to stick to a savings plan. Save first in tax-favored accounts—the tax savings will boost your overall savings.


    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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