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  • Archive for 2016

    It’s Never Too Early to Talk to Children about Retirement

    Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

    Sonya Meets Her Future SelfRetirement is a concept that most adults don’t fully comprehend, let alone kids. 401(K)s, mutual funds, compounding interest, Social Security… all of the terms and jargon surrounding retirement saving can be confusing even to the most well-educated person. One of the best ways to make sure that children grow to understand the importance of retirement saving is to start planting the seeds of knowledge at a young age. The movement to educate children about financial literacy at school is gaining traction across the country, but it is still important to talk to children about the importance of long-term savings outside of the classroom too.

    A valuable tool for introducing the concept and value of long-term saving is WISER’s publication, Sonja Meets Her Future Self. The illustrated children’s book tells the story of a young girl named Sonja who travels through time and meets herself at different points in her life. The book was published in collaboration with the Wyoming Retirement System. You can download the book here to share with the children in your life. You can also watch a narrated video of the story. After you finish, here are some lessons you can discuss together:

    1. Make Sure To Always Save Part Of What You Make

    In the story, Sonja’s grandpa takes her to the bank to open an account, and every week after that, they go to the bank together to deposit part of her allowance. This is a great reminder to kids that even if they are making a small amount of money each week, it is worthwhile to put some aside. Once they get older and their paycheck grows, their weekly savings will as well. Although many transactions are done online, the weekly act of visiting the bank the way Sonja and her grandpa did can be a much more lasting reminder to always put something aside.

    2. When You Do Buy Something, Choose Something With Lasting Value

    Following her grandpa’s advice, Sonja begins saving a little bit of money every week. But he also makes sure to let her know that “it’s OK to spend money.” When you do, it should be for something really worthwhile. In Sonja’s case, she saved enough of her allowance each week to eventually be able to buy her first skateboard. She rides the skateboard all the time, and it even allows her to travel into the future—a purchase well worthwhile! When she is 18, Sonja tells her younger self that she used the money she has been putting away each week from her part-time job to buy herself a used car—another smart, worthwhile purchase. Sonja didn’t buy things she used once and then got bored with, she bought items with real value that she made long-term use out of. Her spending options are a great lesson that spending money is not bad, as long as you are smart about it.

    3. If You Save A Little Bit Over A Long Time, Eventually You Will Have A Lot

    Sonja started saving every week at the age of 11. At first, she only saved up enough to buy a skateboard, but eventually she had enough to buy a used car, and eventually enough to live off of in retirement. Her saving story is a great lesson that even if you only save a little bit, over a long time, it will grow.

    During this gift-giving season, share the story of Sonja with a child in your life.  It is a gift that can last a lifetime!

    National Family Caregivers Month: Leaving a Job or Working Part-Time Because of Caregiving

    Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

    November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to think about the millions of Americans who take care of others. This year’s theme is “take care to give care”, a reminder that the first rule of taking care of others is to take care of yourself first. In acknowledgment of National Family Caregivers Month, WISER is publishing a series of blogs examining caregiving and the ways women can take care of themselves by planning for its financial impact.

    Adding the job of caregiving to an already busy schedule can be impossible without some sort of sacrifice, be it sleep, socialization, or relaxation time. For some, that sacrifice is work—upon becoming caregivers, many leave their jobs or reduce their hours and work part-time. For some, this is the best option, but it must be considered very carefully. Be sure to exhaust other options before taking this step because it can have a tremendous impact on your financial future. Leaving your job will not only cost you your salary, but also benefits like retirement contributions and health insurance. If you do have to leave your job or reduce your work hours, here are a few things to think about:

    One important thing to consider before making any changes to your work schedule is where you are in the retirement and benefit schedule. If you are reducing your hours, find out the minimum number of hours you need to work to continue getting retirement benefits and health insurance, and try to work at least that much. Also try to stay at the job until you are vested, meaning you have worked long enough to have full ownership over the benefits you’ve received. Leaving your job before you are vested may mean forfeiting money that your employer has contributed to your account.

    It is also important to think about your insurance when deciding whether to leave a job or work part-time. Will you be able to take your benefits with you when you leave your current job? If not, where will you get health insurance and how much will it cost? Get some estimates before making a final decision. Having health insurance is important and not a sacrifice you should make for caregiving. Under a federal law referred to as COBRA, you may be able to continue coverage under your former employer’s policy for 18 to 36 months, but you will have to pay the full premium. If you are over 65, you are eligible for Medicare. Another option is your state’s healthcare Marketplace, which was established by the Affordable Care Act. Visit or call 1-800-318-2596 to apply and find out more about your plan options. The Marketplace will also tell you if you qualify for free or low-cost coverage available through Medicaid.

    Also, consider how you will manage your money and continue saving toward retirement. Try to pay off credit cards and other debts so you are on stable financial footing before leaving your job. It is important also to create a budget to help you manage your funds and plan for any additional costs that might come from caregiving. WISER’s “Financial Steps for Caregivers” booklet has a great budget worksheet insert that can help you get started. Plan to continue saving for retirement, even if you are only able to save a small amount. If nothing else, resist the urge to spend any money you having in retirement savings accounts since that money can continue to earn interest, even if you are not working or contributing to it.

    Finally, do not take on the entire responsibility for caregiving if you have other family members who can help either physically or financially. If you have to leave your job, consider talking with your family about receiving pay for the care you are giving. Remember most of all that you need to protect your own future while caring for others. Check out WISER’s “Financial Steps for Caregivers” booklet which includes lots of other great information and resources.

    National Family Caregivers Month: What to consider when you first become a caregiver

    Thursday, November 17th, 2016

    November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to think about the millions of Americans who take care of others. This year’s theme is “take care to give care”, a reminder that the first rule of taking care of others is to take care of yourself first. In acknowledgment of National Family Caregivers Month, WISER is publishing a series of blogs examining caregiving and the ways women can take care of themselves by planning for its financial impact.octopus woman juggling many things

    Taking on the role of caregiver is an overwhelming experience. It often requires one to act and make decisions quickly at a time of emotional trauma and with little background knowledge. In addition, because caregiving work is so personal and often takes place within families, people often don’t speak much about it with friends or in the public, leading to the mistaken belief that it is easy or not emotionally taxing. Imagine being thrown unexpectedly into a 24-hour job for which you may have no experience, yet are expected to perform perfectly and without pay? That is the experience of many caregivers.

    The financial aspect of family caregiving can be the most challenging aspect of the role as unforeseen expenses begin to pile up. Although it can be overwhelming, there are a number of initial steps you can take to plan and prepare for the financial impact of caregiving. The first step is to talk to your siblings and other family members about the various costs involved in providing care.  Caregivers who live with or live near the family member they care for tend to spend more time caregiving than others, so communication between family members is key- make sure they know the cost both in time and dollars that are involved and talk about how you can all help contribute. Keep in mind that you may need to hire services for your family member, such as transportation services, home health aides, or visiting nurses. In addition, you may need to make some modifications to your home to accommodate your loved one, such as bathroom grab bars, a hospital bed on the first floor, or a ramp. These costs add up quickly. If you are providing most of the care, consider asking your family to pay you as an independent contractor. If you are paid, you can even set up a small-employer type pension plan, such as a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP).

    Family caregiving can cause disagreements within families over responsibilities and decisions.  Many families may find it beneficial to create a legal document known as a “personal care agreement” that state what care is provided and how much the caregiver will be compensated. These agreements make the care and payment clear for the caregiver, the recipient, and also for other family members. It can help avoid family conflicts about who will provide care and how much they will be paid. More information on personal care agreements is available in WISER’s Financial Steps for Caregivers booklet.

    Stay tuned for more blog posts this month about ways to avoid compromising your own financial security while caring for others. In the meantime, check out WISER’s Financial Steps for Caregivers booklet which includes lots of great information and resources to get you started.


    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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