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  • Archive for 2013

    WISER Ways to Save for the Holidays

    Thursday, December 12th, 2013

    SnowmanThe holidays bring a lot of extra spending. Everyone wants to partake in the festivities, whether it is gift giving or holiday parties. But just because you want to spoil your friends and family, does not mean your holidays should leave your bank account dry. Here are some tips on how to enjoy the holiday season, without breaking your piggy bank.

    1.   Budget, budget, budget

    Budgets are not fun to think about, and really who wants to sit there and micro-organize her money when she could be out enjoying a holiday party or snuggling up with a good book and hot chocolate? Despite that, creating a budget will help you make it through the holiday season. You need to start by understanding your overall budget. Use WISER’s budget worksheet to help you with this step. Once you know your monthly and annual budgets, you can make decisions on how much you can afford to spend this holiday season. How much extra money do you have this month? Can you make up for it in January? Set an overall holiday budget which includes gift purchases, travel funds, and items for holiday parties, all without dipping into your retirement savings!

    Next, make a list of everyone you plan to buy gifts for. Based on your budget for the ENTIRE holiday season, decide on how much you can spend for each person. Do not over spend just because a person is particularly important. Holidays are not about the amount of money you spend, but the love expressed in the thoughts behind your gifts. As you start buying gifts, you can readjust the budgets for each person as you find deals on items. We recommend that you also pay with cash. If you only bring the amount of cash budgeted for the gift, you cannot outspend! For help on keeping track of your spending, check out WISER’s “Keep Track of Your Spending” Fact Sheet.

    2.   Use technology to help you find the best deals!

    Instead of spending time to go in store to find a gift, consider buying items online where you can easily compare prices across stores. Buying online will also save you money on gas because you do not have to drive there and the circle the parking lot for 20 minutes hoping to find a spot. Many retailers also offer free shipping during the holidays.  Still love the experience of browsing in a store? Then try downloading an app like GasBuddy to help find the cheapest gas near you.

    You can also save on postage, printing, and cards by sending e-cards instead of traditional mail. There are tons of free, cute holiday e-cards to which you can add your own personal message! Smilebox even has options for you to upload your own photos, so you can still send that family portrait, as a free e-card.

    3.   It’s time to embrace DIY projects.

    We’re not all crafty and creative so it can be difficult to find ways to create your own gifts and decorations, but it can help you save a lot of money. Think of a particular skill of yours and find ways to employ it in making gifts. If you love baking, give someone cookies instead of a store bought present. If you have a lot of great pictures, make someone a photo album. Coupons for activities with the person later are a great gift and easy way to save money because you have time to save for the activity! Want more tips for

    Holiday DIY

    gifting? Check out this article.

    Decorating can also take a lot of money. Lights a beautiful, but take a fair amount of energy, and thus money. Scale your displays back to save on electricity costs. Consider ditching the live Christmas tree. Buying one each year adds up. Instead, invest in a fake tree that you do not have to replace for a long time. Here is a tip for keeping that great evergreen smell: Christmas tree vendors will give you branches they trim from their trees for free! You can put these in vase and have the tree smell, without the tree cost. Click on the image to the right for more DIY decorative projects!

    4.   Prepare for next year!

    Treat your holiday budget like your retirement. You should add a little money each month so that the gift buying next year is easier. $20 a month equates to $240 to spend for the holiday! How much easier would your budgeting be then? Also, think about buying gifts throughout the year. If some item goes on sale, you could save more money by buying it in March and keeping it rather than waiting to buy everything all in one month.

    Want more tips on how to save this season? Check out this article.

    Happy holidays and happy saving!

    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!

    Elder Fraud and Financial Abuse Concerns: Spotting Elder Fraud as a Caregiver

    Monday, November 25th, 2013

    Elder financial fraud victimizes hundreds of thousands of elderly persons each year. Older Americans hold the largest percentage of this nation’s wealth, making them prime targets for abuse by unethical financial professionals, scammers, caregivers and even family members. Elder financial abuse is the misuse of an older person’s property or financial resources without their consent or understanding. Senior financial abuse scams are a multi‐billion dollar “industry.” Estimates say that it costs $2.6 billion a year. It can cause older Americans additional stress and serious health care concerns.

    Scammers use a variety of tricks and scenarios to steal, such as misusing credit cards, telemarketing, jury notices, and phishing emails. For more about the most common scams, read our special report on senior fraud. Victims of financial abuse are usually between the ages 80 and 89. Women are twice as likely to be targeted as men. Most of those victimized live alone and require some type of assistance either with health care or home maintenance.

    Caregivers, therefore, are often the ones that will see a problem first because of their close relationship with the elder. Caregivers frequently oversee or otherwise assist with finances of the person for whom they care. They may also have the Durable Power of Attorney, which allows you to make financial decisions for someone who has become incapacitated.

    Here are some common tactics that scammers and fraudsters use:

    • High pressure or misleading sales efforts (excessive fees and interest rates, large prepayment penalties, etc.)
    • Asking for personal information over the phone
    • Promises of gifts when signing up right away
    • People who promise to split money found, after a “good faith” payment is made


    You should also be aware of indications that someone has already become a victim. Some warning actions are:

    • Failure to pay bills, or bounced checks when there should be enough money to cover expenses
    • Failure to buy food or medication, especially if other unnecessary purchases are being made (jewelry, golf clubs, home repairs)
    • Taking out large amounts of money from bank or cash accounts, or making numerous withdrawals of smaller amounts
    • Missing personal property or belongings
    • Becoming too close with a much younger or otherwise inappropriate person
    • Writing checks for large amounts to people you do know


    For more information about how to protect those you care about, read our report written in conjunction with the Center for American Nurses on Protecting Your Mother from Financial Fraud and Abuse. If you believe the person for whom you care has become a victim of financial fraud,take a look at our caregiver booklet for a list of resources and agencies you can contact. The Senate Aging Committee also recently launched an Anti-Fraud Hotline designed to help elder Americans fight against fraud. The number is 1-855-303-9470. You can learn more about it from the committee’s press release here.


    Seniors who are victims of financial fraud and abuse have little opportunity to recover financially from their losses.  It is important to educate yourself and the person you are caring for about this important issue.  As a caregiver, you can play a key role in detecting signs of possible financial fraud or abuse.


    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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