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  • Archive for October, 2007

    Why one woman turned down a $40,000 pay raise

    Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

    Vickie Elisa, 49, of Atlanta, Georgia, says she turned down a job offer that included a substantial pay raise for one reason only: to retain her pension at her current government job. The New York Times’ Fran Hawthorne profiles Ms. Elisa, and WISER, in an article today in its Retirement section. Like Ms. Elisa, more and more women are realizing that great jobs can no longer be determined by high salaries alone. Factors such as health insurance, a pension or a 401(k) employer match often mean more money in the long run, and this is important particularly, as WISER’s president Cindy Hounsell points out in the article, for women who would like to work into their 70s, but are unable to physically.

    Have factors other than pay ever caused you to reconsider or turn down a job? Contact WISER at to tell your story. Full NYT article here.

    For Women, Greater Obstacles to Retirement
    Published: October 23, 2007

    VICKIE ELISA was ready to jump at the offer of a consulting position — and a $40,000 raise — in Washington six years ago. But a benefits expert whom she worked with at the DeKalb County Board of Health in Atlanta stopped her short. The new job had no pension plan, the expert pointed out, whereas Ms. Elisa would be eligible for one from the State of Georgia that would pay as much as 90 percent of her salary after she retired.

    “I never ran the numbers that way,” said Ms. Elisa, now 49. “I always said, ‘I don’t need to think about this till I’m 60.’”

    Since turning down the consulting offer, Ms. Elisa has done a lot more thinking about retirement. Instead of retiring in three years at 52, she is planning to work until she is 57 or even 61, which would increase her pension by at least 21 percent. She is also planning to put future 401(k) contributions into more aggressive stocks.

    More women are doing such retirement financial analysis, for good reason. They can’t afford to retire. Whether they have a traditional pension or a 401(k) plan, women consistently enter retirement with about half as much money as men do.

    The explanations have been known for years. Women generally earn only about 80 percent of what men earn. That hurts because the formula for a traditional pension is based on income, while the lower earnings make it harder for women to put money aside in a 401(k).

    Yet those skimpier 401(k)’s must stretch over a longer time frame, as women outlive men by about five years, on average.

    Moreover, women tend to work in service or part-time jobs that often do not provide retirement plans, and they are more likely to drop out temporarily to take care of children and sick parents, which cuts into their earnings and pension accumulation. When they do save, women gravitate toward conservative investments. Although that can be wise in volatile times, such a strategy usually means lower earnings over the long run.

    Since these problems are well known, why have employers and their investment managers done so little to change things? Companies make some efforts to educate women on staff, but they contend that antidiscrimination laws constrain them. For their part, women’s advocates say they need to focus on the bigger issue of pay disparity.

    So the burden is falling largely on women themselves — to save more, to invest more aggressively and to postpone retirement.

    “What do women have to do now? That’s really the question,” said M. Cindy Hounsell, president of the Washington advocacy group Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, known as Wiser, and the expert who worked with Ms. Elisa. “Women are starting to talk, but I don’t think they realize the magnitude of the problem.”

    Nation’s First Baby Boomer Applies for Social Security

    Thursday, October 11th, 2007

    USA Today reports that Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, of Earleville, Md., will apply for her Social Security benefit this Monday, October 15. At the age of 62, Casey-Kirschling, born Jan. 1, 1946, one second after midnight, is said to be the nation’s first baby boomer, and represents the beginning of a wave of retirees in the U.S. – 82 million – who were born between 1946 and 1964, and will be increasingly eligible to begin taking their Social Security benefits. From the article:

    “In deciding when to take Social Security benefits, the couple did the math and agreed Casey-Kirschling would take the money next year. They estimate she will get $240 less per month than she would have if she waited four years, but the money she’ll receive — she wouldn’t say precisely how much that will be — initially will stop her from having to tap other investments, she says.

    “I could be dead next year,” she says, “so why not take it this year?”

    …In each retiree’s case, the decision on whether to take Social Security benefits now or later hinges on two issues: life expectancy and investment acumen. Those who take Social Security at 62 will get only 75% of their full benefit each month for the rest of their lives. Those who put off receiving the benefits get a higher percentage of their full benefit, up to 100% for those who wait until age 66 to retire. Those who wait up to age 70 can get 132% of their full benefit.”

    The full article can be found here:

    Have you considered when you will take Social Security?

    For more information on Social Security, see WISER’s Fact Sheets at, or visit the Social Security Administration’s website:


    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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