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  • Archive for May, 2009

    5 Questions to Ask Your Mother or Grandmother

    Thursday, May 14th, 2009

    May is Older Americans Month, and for many of us, the most important older Americans are our own parents and grandparents. Although thinking about retirement is difficult for everyone in these tough financial times, it is particularly important for women, who too often live out their retirement years in precarious financial straits.

    This month, take time to help yourself – and those you love – plan for a more secure retirement. Start by asking your mother or grandmother the following questions, following up with suggestions found in the complete version. Together you may find some solutions that will make both of your lives better.

    5 Questions to Ask Your Mother or Grandmother

    1. Can you make ends meet; are you worried about depleting all of your savings?

    2. Do you have a competent tax and financial advisor?

    3. Are you struggling with prescription drug costs?

    4. Are you getting all the medical care you need?

    5. Have you been approached to get involved in charitable contributions, investment schemes, business ventures or loans that seem questionable?

    To read the entire fact sheet, visit The National Education and Resource Center on Women and Retirement Planning at

    Happy Older Americans Month!

    Friday, May 8th, 2009

    Retirement Insecurity, a new report by The New Hampshire Women’s Policy Institute and underwritten by WISER, examines the financial status of New Hampshire’s older women and recommends state-level policy changes that could increase savings for current and future generations. The report provides the first-ever in-depth analysis of the financial status of New Hampshire’s women aged 65 and older. Among the paper’s major findings are: 

    ·         Women’s lower income during retirement years is driven by a disparity in lifetime earnings between women and men due to differences in pay rates, labor force participation in full-time and part-time work, as well as women’s primary role as caregivers in society. The estimated lifetime cost of caregiving is $659,139. 

    ·         New Hampshire women 65 and over who live alone have the lowest incomes among the state’s older population and are at the greatest risk of not being able to pay housing or health care costs. Sixty-two percent of older women living alone have incomes below what is needed to cover basic costs of living. 

    ·         The Institute estimates an older women living alone needs approximately $20,000 per year to cover the basic costs of living, just over twice the federal poverty level. Approximately 28,000 women 65 and over in New Hampshire had household incomes below that level in 2007. 

    ·         The lack of financial security is a major driver for public benefit programs as New Hampshire residents age. Is estimated that Medicaid spending on women aged 65 and over in 2020 is expected to cost New Hampshire taxpayers $330 million.

    ·         There are a range of policies and activities which can be implemented now, many with minimal immediate cost that will help to ensure that the women of New Hampshire are able to live out their lives in the homes of their choosing and as a continued social, economic and political force in their communities.

     For more information, go to, or download the Retirement Insecurity Fact Sheet. To access the 30-page report pdf, click here. 

    Blog About It: Elder Economic Security

    Friday, May 1st, 2009

    Today marks the start of Older Americans Month. WISER is partnering with Wider Opportunities for Women on its National Elder Economic Security Initiative: What does elder economic security mean to you? We encourage you to answer this question by leaving a comment on WISER’s blog, or on the National Elder Economic Security Blog. 

    Old Age Is No Place for Sissies

    Life Expectancy

    While a long life can be a wonderful gift, a long life in poverty or near poverty is not so wonderful. Today, an average woman’s life expectancy at birth is 80.4 years, compared to 75.2 years for an average man. If a woman lives to age 65, she can expect to live until age 85 ― about three years longer than a 65-year-old man. 

    Marital Status

    Many widows face poverty for the first time in their lives. Between the ages 75–84, only 34 percent of women are married with their spouse present. For women aged 85 and older, only 13 percent are married with their spouse present. In contrast, 70 percent of men aged 75–84 and 56 percent aged 85 and older are married with a spouse present.

    With the death of a spouse, women often experience a steep drop in income. When a woman becomes a widow, she stands to lose a significant amount of income from her spouse’s pension and even from Social Security.


    The poverty rate for all women age 65 and older is 12 percent. Single women in this age group are at a much higher risk of poverty. Over 20 percent of single white women are living in poverty; the rate is double for single African American and Hispanic women. 

    Portion of Single Older Women Who Are Poor and Near Poor


    Below 100% of Poverty

    (Threshold $9,669)

    Below 150% of Poverty

    (Threshold $14,504)

    Below 200% of Poverty

    (Threshold $19,338)

























    Note: The poverty thresholds shown in this table are for 2007,  calculated in 2008.  Source: CPS, Table POV 01, 2008.

    Retirement Income
    The median annual income for women age 65 and older is not quite two-thirds of what men the same age are receiving ($14,021 compared to $22,323). Social Security is intended to replace approximately 40 percent of an average earner’s wages, but many women rely on it as their primary or only source of retirement income. This is one of the major reasons why so many women are poor or near poor.
    In theory, women should be saving more money than men because they live longer and will need money to support themselves and pay for the rising cost of health care and prescription drugs.  Yet in reality, they are not able to save the vast amounts that are needed due to diverse work patterns and caregiving responsibilities that require them to move in and out of the paid labor force or to work at part-time jobs where they are less likely to have retirement plans or savings.

    As a result, millions of women are vulnerable to outliving their assets and facing the real possibility of poverty.

    We can hope that public policymakers will adopt changes to prevent poverty in old age, such as providing caregiver credits, improving the Saver’s Tax Credit, developing a better system of financing and providing long-term care. However, women must learn to make the most of the existing system and make the best financial decisions toward securing their futures. 

    So, what does Elder Economic Security mean to you? 


    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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