Thursday, March 25, 2010

Retirement & Savings: How Confident Are We?

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s newly released 2010 Retirement Confidence Survey, one quarter of workers surveyed stated that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year, due in large part to a combination of a poor economy and a lack of financial security for the future (i.e. little to no savings). For 33% of workers, this means retiring after the age of 65; a major increase from 19% a decade ago.

There is encouraging news to be found in this survey as the results show that Americans’ confidence in their ability to retire one day appears to be stabilizing. However, while confidence is up, reality paints a more somber picture. According to the data, there is still much to be done to boost Americans’ savings. Let’s take a closer look at the data:

Fewer are saving: Fewer workers report that they and/or their spouse have saved for retirement (69%, down from 75% in 2009). Moreover, fewer workers say that they and/or their spouse are currently saving for retirement (60%, down from 65% in 2009).

Ranks of those with no savings are growing: An increased percentage of workers report they have virtually no savings and investments. In total, more than half of workers (54%) report that the total value of their household’s savings and investments, excluding the value of their primary home and any defined benefit plans, is less than $25,000.

Clueless about savings goals: Many workers continue to be unaware of how much they need to save for retirement. Less than half of workers (46%) report they and/or their spouse have tried to calculate how much money they will need to have saved by the time they retire so that they can live comfortably in retirement.

Sources of retirement income: Fewer workers are expecting to receive retirement income from Social Security (77%, down from 88% in 1991) and defined benefit plans (56%, down from 62% in 2005). However, more workers report they will rely on employer-sponsored retirement savings plans (75% in 2010, up from 69% in 2005) and employment income (77%, up from 70% in 2005).

While the survey results may seem discouraging, this does not have to be everyone’s reality. It is never too late to change your financial situation for the future and start saving. Check out some of WISER’s helpful tips to get you back on track to a financially secure retirement.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Attention Caregivers: Health Care Costs Getting You Down? You're Not Alone...

A new study by MetLife Mature Market Institute in collaboration with the National Alliance for Caregiving and the University of Pittsburgh Institute on Aging found that if you are a caregiver, it will likely affect both your health and your employer’s healthcare costs. Employees caring for older relatives are more likely to report health problems such as depression and hypertension. The healthcare costs for these employees are eight percent higher than for non-caregivers. Younger caregivers (18-39) generate even higher health care costs for employers- about 11 percent more than other employees.

The study highlights these important health implications for caregivers and their workplaces, but also points out that this is an opportunity for reform.
“Employers can provide support to their employees and, at the same time, reduce their health care costs by anticipating and responding to the challenges of eldercare,” asserted Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.
The study recommends improvements in access to flexible work schedules, paid time off and telecommuting as ways to reduce the health problems that caregivers experience and also to show support for caregiving in the workplace. The full study can be found here.

Visit WISER’s Caregiving webpage for more caregiving resources.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Happy International Women's Day!

Take part in International Women’s Day this year by recognizing the importance of caregivers around the world. WISER has put together a packet for caregivers, their family members, and friends to help with making important employment and financial decisions.

International Women's Day (March 8th) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. Almost 70 percent of the caregivers in the United States are female, and, around the world, women spend twice as much time caregiving as men.

WISER’s packet, Caregivers: Care for Yourself While Caring for Others, is a tool to help caregivers educate themselves about their financial situations today and plan for a secure financial future!

To learn more about events happening all over the world for International Women’s Day, visit the website.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Census Benefits for Women

Every 10 years the United States is required by constitutional law to take a census of the American people. The census is responsible for helping the government gauge how federal funds should be allocated over the years to come and determines the number of seats each state may hold in the U.S. House of Representatives.

More importantly however, and our focus today, is the impact the census results have on low to moderate income women, who deeply benefit from additional federal funding. According to the Government’s website, “The 2010 Census will help communities receive more than $400 billion in federal funds each year for things like: hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, bridges, tunnels and other public work projects, and emergency services.” The information collected from the census is used not only by the government, but by countless female oriented organizations that provide care, assistance, and support based on this information to those needing it the most. By taking 10 minutes to answer 10 quick and simple questions women can provide answers that could potentially aid them in the future.

In the past, the census has helped bring key women’s issues to the forefront of both government and non-profit agencies’ agendas. Statistics such as the number of women in the U.S., with jobs, with children, of different racial backgrounds, married or single, renting or owning their home are all collected and developed from information gathered from the U.S. Census. This information will help women gain the funding they need for years to come. As President Obama says, “We can’t move forward until you mail it back.” So when you receive your 2010 census form in mid-March fill it out and send it back, because it could be the determining factor behind getting that additional assistance you need over the next 10 years.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The CARD Act of 2009 Takes Effect Today!

The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act takes effect starting today. This act will work to increase the amount of information clearly presented to consumers about their bills, interest, and changes to their account. This is good news for consumers, but you still need to understand these changes and pay attention to your credit card agreements and activity! Some of the changes include:

▪ Credit card companies must notify you at least 45 days before they can increase your interest rate or change certain fees applicable to your account.
▪ Your bill will have a table showing how long it will take you to pay off your balance if you make only the minimum monthly payments. Here is an example of a credit statement provided by the Federal Reserve:

New Balance $1,784.53
Minimum Payment Due $53.00
Payment Due Date 4/20/12

If you make no additional charges using this card and each month you pay the minimum payment,you will pay off the balance shown on this statement in about 10 years and you will end up paying an estimated total of $3,284.

If you make no additional charges using this card and each month you pay $62, you will pay off the balance shown on this statement in about 3 years and you will end up paying an estimated total of $2,232 (Savings= $1,052)

▪ Credit card companies cannot increase your interest rate for one year after you open the account. Be sure to read the fine print, as there are some exceptions to this rule.
▪ Credit card companies must mail you your bill at least 21 days before your payment is due. You must have the same due date each month and your payment must be deemed “on-time” if it is received before 5:00pm on that date.
▪ When paying your bill, if you make more than the minimum payment, the company must credit the extra amount to the balance with the highest interest rate.
▪ Credit card companies are prohibited from imposing “two-cycle billing,” meaning they can only charge interest on balances in the present billing cycle.

While these changes are encouraging and will help to protect you as a consumer, you should still carefully look at any information your credit card company sends to you and be aware of your plan’s details. For more information on the CARD Act and its provisions, read WISER’s newsletter.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Social Security Benefits Update!

A major victory for individuals with disabling diseases and other medical conditions has been won through the addition of new Compassionate Allowances by the Social Security Administration. Compassionate Allowances allow SSA to offer benefits quickly to applicants whose medical conditions are so serious that they obviously meet disability standards. This update marks the first addition to the Compassionate Allowances list since its creation, and includes diseases like Tay Sachs Disease, Mixed Dementia and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The list is used to give individuals with those diseases access to benefits within days, as opposed to months or years, which has often been the case for people with more complicated applications.
Commissioner Michael J. Astrue asserted, “There can be no higher priority than getting disability benefits quickly to those Americans with these severe and life-threatening conditions.”

This victory has been celebrated by Alzheimer’s disease advocates, who have been fighting for streamlined benefits since 2003. Individuals with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease often have difficulties when applying for benefits which can take years to gain through appeal.

To see the full list of Compassionate Allowance Conditions that have been added, visit Social Security’s Compassionate Allowances webpage. Check out WISER’s website for information about Social Security benefits and why they are especially important for women.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

What is the Earned Income Tax Credit and how EITC can benefit you?

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable federal income tax credit designed for low to moderate income working individuals and families. It was originally approved by Congress back in 1975 as a means to offset the burden of social security taxes and to provide an incentive to work, however currently this credit has the ability to lift many struggling American families above the poverty line.

To find out if you qualify for the EITC ask yourself if you meet the following IRS listed requirements:

· You must have a valid Social Security Number

· You must have earned income from your job, working for yourself or another source.

· Your filing status cannot be married, filing separately.

· You must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien all year, or a nonresident alien married to a U.S. citizen or resident alien and filing a joint return.

· You cannot be a qualifying child of another person.

· Cannot file Form 2555 or 2555-EZ (related to foreign income)

· You can have only limited amount of investment income

Preview of 2010 Tax Year

Additionally in order to qualify you must be within the following income brackets:

Earned income and adjusted gross income (AGI) must each be less than:

  • $43,352 ($48,362 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children
  • $40,363 ($45,373 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children
  • $35,535 ($40,545 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child
  • $13,460 ($18,470 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children

Tax Year 2010 maximum credit:

  • $5,666 with three or more qualifying children
  • $5,036 with two qualifying children
  • $3,050 with one qualifying child
  • $457 with no qualifying children

*The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides a temporary increase in EITC and expands the credit for workers with three or more qualifying children. These changes are temporary and apply to 2009 and 2010 tax years.

To learn more about the EITC and how you might qualify for a tax credit please visit the IRS' EITC home page at,,id=96406,00.html