Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Many Thanks for a Great 2008!

We dedicate our last post of the year to our wonderful state partners in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin! We’re using this opportunity to spotlight some of the great successes and fabulous work underway in each of the states. To find out more about this exciting work, visit each state’s website at: http://www.wowonline.org/ourprograms/eesi/

California (Insight Center for Community Economic Development)… where our partner is working with the Women’s Policy Institute of the California Women’s Foundation to use the Elder Economic Security Initiative as a platform for innovative legislation recommending use of the Elder Index in state and regional strategic planning efforts and care management assessment protocols. More details to come!

Connecticut (Permanent Commission on the Status of Women)… where our partner was recently quoted in an CT AARP newsletter article, “Older Women Face Higher Risk of Poverty,” on how gender and pay inequality impact economic security for women over the life span.

Illinois (Health and Medicine Policy Research Group)… where our partner is taking a lead role alongside advocates across the state to expand access and address financial barriers to enrolling in the state’s home and community-based long term care program by revising the eligibility formula for the program’s sliding scale fees.

Massachusetts (Massachusetts Association of Older Americans, Inc.)… where our partner was named “Advocate of the Year” by the Massachusetts Councils on Aging! Bravo!

Michigan (Elder Law of Michigan, Inc.)… where our partner was awarded a grant from MI AARP to use the Elder Index as a tool for outreach to elders on vital income support programs, such as housing assistance and the Medicare Savings Programs.

Minnesota (Minnesota Women’s Consortium)… where our partner is leveraging technology to bring the Elder Economic Security Initiative to stakeholders across the state through e-communications, online surveys and statewide video conferences.

New Jersey (New Jersey Foundation for Aging)… where our partner is developing a comprehensive intergenerational framework for economic security through the Elder Economic Security Initiative and drawing upon the expertise of other key organizations, including the Rutgers Center for Women and Work and Legal Services of New Jersey.

Pennsylvania (PathWaysPA)… where our partner’s engagement with local service providers resulted in the Elder Index being used to determine income eligibility for senior social service programming of the United Way of Great Lehigh Valley.

Wisconsin (Wisconsin Women’s Network)… where our partner’s outreach efforts to local advocates resulted in proposals by county officials in Washburn and Pierce counties to increase energy assistance to low-income seniors. Great stuff!

This is just a sampling! Each state has accomplished so much this year in furthering the Elder Economic Security Initiative. We congratulate each state on their individual accomplishments and we look forward to working with each state in the New Year to continue the success of the Initiative.

Thanks so much you for all of your hard work! We anticipate many more exciting outcomes in 2009!

Monday, December 22, 2008

We asked. The Transition Team responded.

Transition Team Announces Appointment of Task Force on Working Families in line with Wider Opportunities for Women's Recommendation

After our remarks to the Obama Transition Team last week, we are delighted the incoming administration is committing to work toward economic security for families and elders.

Read the Washington Post article about the Task Force here.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Susan Rees
(202) 464-1596

December 22, 2008

Task Force Shows Commitment to Working Families’ Agenda

Washington, DC—Wider Opportunities for Women’s Executive Director, Joan Kuriansky, praised the new administration’s Task Force of Working Families and reiterated WOW’s support for this inter-agency task force.

The impact of measuring policies and programs designed to improve the quality of life for all working families to a ‘yardstick’ can make a profound difference in both the administration of public programming and in the lives of the people they touch. “For over 40 years WOW has worked across the nation and in its home community of Washington, DC to build pathways to economic security for America’s families. That the administration has produced a vision for a task force which is in line with our recommendation for a Task Force on Economic Security demonstrates their commitment to working families and to listening to the advocates who exist to serve those working families,” Kuriansky said.

“Now more than ever we need tools to rebuild our communities, our economy and the American Dream—the American Dream in which all men and women have access to quality jobs that enable them to pay their bills, give their children a good education and prepare for the day they can retire in dignity with financial security in their own communities. An interagency task force dedicated to using a tool, a ‘yardstick’, to measure how far our families have come in terms of income adequacy and economic security can move federal policies and programs in the right direction.

“We applaud the administration’s goals for this task force. Putting an administration-wide emphasis on expanding education and lifelong training opportunities, improving work and family balance, restoring labor standards, including workplace safety, helping to protect middle-class and working-family incomes, and protecting retirement security are key ingredients to economic security for all working families. WOW looks forward to working with the administration to achieve movement along the administration’s yardstick and for American families,” Kuriansky concluded.

Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) is a national organization that has helped women and their families achieve economic independence and equality of opportunity for over 40 years. Through our national Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Project and Elder Economic Security Initiative, WOW works with over 2,500 allies and partners in 40states. For more than 40 years, WOW has helped women learn to earn, with programs emphasizing literacy, technical and nontraditional skills, the welfare-to-work transition, career development, and retirement security. Since 1964, WOW has trained more than 10,000 women for well-paid work in the DC area. WOW leads the National Women's Workforce Network, which is comprised of organizations committed to increasing women and girls' access to well-paid work, the Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Project, and the Elder Economic Security Initiative.

Friday, December 19, 2008

WOW Briefs Obama Transition Team

Wider Opportunities for Women was pleased to brief the Obama Transition Team Wednesday on issues specific to women, work, and families. Our Executive Director, Joan Kuriansky, and Reproductive Rights Coordinator Ann Kolker were both in attendance and below are Ann’s thoughts on the event.

"Amidst the flurry of briefing papers, sign-on letters, conference calls and late-night conversations that have pre-occupied WOW as we prepare for a new administration in January, one event stands out: WOW was asked by the head of outreach for the transition team to organize a briefing on women, work and families issues for individuals expected to hold high level positions in the Obama-Biden administration. We quickly assembled about 20 experts from the coalitions and partner groups we work with – and on Wednesday provided a synopsis of the priority quality jobs, benefits, affirmative action, education and training and core economic security issues that could be addressed in the early months of the new administration. Transition officials appeared impressed with our presentation and excited to have “action items” that the incoming team could implement." - Ann Kolker

Monday, December 15, 2008

WOW Featured in Forbes.com Op-Ed

Wider Opportunities for Women is pleased to be featured in an op-ed by Forbes writer Ruthie Ackerman last week on the importance of women in the workforce and how women can continue to defy the odds and take on nontraditional roles and progress even further to prominent positions. We are glad to be continually seen as a national resource for women looking for training and employment opportunities.

“Programs like Washington, D.C.-based Wider Opportunities for Women does just that, training women in construction and related fields. After Hurricane Katrina, the group offered instruction to women in Mississippi so that they could take advantage of the slew of rebuilding jobs in the state.”

– Ruthie Ackerman

To read the full article, click here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Helping Elders Get Around

One expense vital to elders’ health and mobility is transportation. Whether it is depending on a car or public transportation, elders have to factor in this expense and it can get quite costly. The Independent Transportation Network® (ITN) is a nonprofit organization that offers affordable, dignified transportation to elders though its affiliates in eight states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Maine. This is uniquely operated and allows seniors unable to drive to participate in the CarTrade™ program, which allows them to trade in their car for transportation credits.

ITN is a great example of volunteers taking control to assist their communities. Volunteer drivers can earn and store mileage credits that they can use when they transition to the passenger seat. It’s called Transportation Social Security™. Volunteers can also choose to donate the credits they earn to low income seniors who apply for help through the Road Scholarship™ program.

Though not all communities have an ITN® affiliate or similar organization, it is encouraging to see innovative and leading examples like this one. The Elder Economic Security Standard Index™ (Elder Index) maps out elders’ transportation costs by geographic location, whether in a rural or urban setting, to more accurately portray true costs. In communities without a free or affordable elder transportation system, the Elder Index can help advocate for such a system or to fund programs that advocate for elder economic security more generally.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Elders Voice Concern about Economy

This week, we are highlighting an Associated Press video on YouTube titled, “Financial Crisis Taking Toll on Nest Eggs”. Elders and other advocates are featured in the video discussing the frustration and financial uncertainty the economic crisis is having on elders. One thing the piece shows is the vast amount of elders affected.

Little has been said or done yet about retirees or older workers in regards to the currently discussed economic stimulus package, although both groups are being affected just as much if not more than the rest of the population. As mentioned in the video, retirees are living on a fixed income unable to attain additional income and are uncertain if they should keep in or take out their money from the banks because of the shaky financial situation. In addition, retirees who may want to reenter the workforce face the staggering statistic of 25.9 weeks to find a job, as stated in an AARP report last month.

One of the last segments of the video talks about elders’ hope that the government will work toward securing their funds and the Elder Economic Security Initiative is working with elders toward this goal. Through our policy efforts, we want to make sure elders are assisted by the upcoming economic stimulus bill. Our fact sheets for policymakers, advocates, and service providers, also provide a deeper look into the Initiative and how we are helping elders to afford their basic food, transportation, housing, and healthcare needs.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


CALL FOR STORIES: Elders Struggling to Make Ends Meet

Do you work with seniors who are having trouble making ends meet?

Do you know of elders who are skipping meals or splitting medications to conserve them?

Do you come in contact with adult children struggling financially because of their care giving responsibilities to an aging parent?

If so, please help Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) collect their stories. These stories will be featured on the WOW website along with other seniors, baby boomers and family caregivers who are struggling to get by. These profiles will help support efforts to raise awareness and promote policy and program change to assure the economic well-being of elders and their families. Help WOW educate policy makers and the media about how difficult it is for seniors in our communities to afford nutritious food, prescription medications and utilities in today’s economy!

Contact Stacy Sanders at ssanders@wowonline.org or (202) 464-1596 to find out more.


Friday, November 21, 2008

States Cutting Elder Services

The economic downturn continues to negatively affect elders, with new reports predicting more low-income seniors will be forced to leave their homes because of state budget cuts specifically in the area of elder benefits. In a Market Watch article this week titled, “States Cut Services for Elderly, Disabled”, it was reported that at least 15 states cut funding for programs that provided at-home services to elders such as cooking and cleaning. In addition, a total of 41 states are now being faced with current and alarming budget deficits. In Illinois, for example, the state government is $5 billion in debt.

However, states are not waiting on the federal government for a hand-out, no doubt realizing that the federal government’s attention is on helping the larger corporations at this point in time. States are taking matters into their own hands by passing state economic stimulus packages and other legislation to improve the economy statewide. The Ohio state government will be moving forward in 2009 with a passed $1.6 billion stimulus package to revive its weakening economy.

The Elder Economic Security Initiative Standard Index is a usefel tool on local and state levels that can be used to guide state deliberations by showing what exactly elders need to be secure. As states ambitiously move to strengthen their economy it is important to remember the important role of service providers and advocates that support elders in this crucial time. The reality is that now even more seniors need added support and benefits pushed for by both groups and taking funding away from these groups will only lead to more seniors unable to progress toward economic security.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Baby Boomers Feel the Squeeze

So we all know those of retirement age are postponing their plans and perhaps working longer, but what about the baby boomers on the cusp of retirement? According to an AARP special report, it looks like baby boomers are rethinking retirement and how they spend their money. Americans, age 45 to 59, that fit in this category are spending less, and trying to save more. Over 70% surveyed reduced how much they eat out since the economic crisis began while half have postponed travel plans. Taking retirement savings more seriously is a good thing for baby boomers. However, it becomes tough when many of these adults are also supporting their college-aged children with high tuition costs.

A key point derived from this article is that the economy will not improve by people not spending money as the baby boomer generation and most of the country seems to be doing at an increasing pace. It is important to focus on ways to make people feel and actually be economically secure. Through the Elder Economic Security Standard Index (“Elder Index”), anyone from legislators to college students can see how the costs of living for elders vary and the essential components in determining economic security in your retirement years. Obviously, as the cost of living increases, the Elder Index numbers will be updated and the updating of numbers is key to elder’s economic security. Contrarily, the Federal Poverty Level, an outdated measure of economic insecurity, fails to keep up with rising costs, such as healthcare, one of elders’ greatest expenses.

The Elder Index is the right tool for determining what people need to make the right decision about retirement. It provides data on the cost of housing, food, transportation, healthcare, and miscellaneous expenses to assist people in determining the best option for them, whether it is working longer, saving earlier, or a combination of both.

Friday, November 7, 2008

What does the President-elect think about Economic Security?

With the 2008 federal election cycle almost closed, the nation awaits the start of the 111th Congress and the inauguration of the first president to receive a majority of the popular vote since Jimmy Carter. But what do the numbers really tell us? The WOW PowerPoint found here offers a quick look at what the results, exit polls and other public research tells us in the context of supporting an agenda that creates viable, sustainable economic opportunities for all Americans, opportunities that offer financial stability and security and a clear path to achieving the American Dream.

I think we are pleased that the almost two-year presidential campaign season is over! Now it is time to really get to work on moving forward our economic security agenda. The EESI team is ready to get both President-elect Barack Obama and the 111th Congress on board to support our initiatives, so that elders can age in place with dignity and respect.

Here are the President-elect’s stance on our issues:

President-elect Barack Obama is committed to fighting economic insecurity. In his fact sheet, “Fighting Poverty and Creating a Bridge to the Middle Class”, he pledges to improve the American situation by:

1. Job Expansion and Creation
2. Income Expansion (such as the EITC)
3. Increasing the supply of affordable housing

Obama also has an agenda to address elder issues such as retirement and social security. His plan consists of key components such as:

1. Reform Corporate Bankruptcy Laws to Protect Workers and Retirees
2. Protecting Social Security by uncapping the full payroll tax of 12.4 percent for those making under $250,000.
3. Protect and Strengthen Medicare by reforming Medicare Part D.

Each of these agenda items work toward moving all people toward economic security and we are excited to get more involved with policy proposals and current legislation that when implemented will support our work, but more importantly support the lives of the elders we work for.

Despite the favorable agenda of the incoming President, there will still be a lot of work to do once the new Administration is installed to keep elder issues at the forefront of his and Congress’ agenda.We look forward to the challenge and hope you will join us in the effort.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Scary Financial Mess Only Seems to Worsen

General Motors (GM) is ridding its employees of their 401(k) plans, and experts predict other corporations to possibly do the same. Last Thursday, GM, which had previously matched employees’ 401 (k) plans up to 4 percent, decided to suspend the match in order to cut costs.

This negatively affects those already struggling due to the financial and economic crises because it reduces the growth of their input. Employees at GM counting on their 401(k) plans to increase in the coming year so that they can retire at that time, now may be pressured to work longer than they had planned. And let’s not forget that these employees did nothing wrong, yet they are forced to bear the burden.

As the EESI team continues to advocate economic security for elders it is vital to address the fact that more elders are now feeling and becoming economically insecure because of the weakening economy. Advocating for elders in the workforce is also becoming more important as more decide to work longer. Not only are companies, such as GM, stripping away 401(k) plans, but others are reducing benefits such as healthcare, too.

On this Halloween, it is indeed a scary time for our country; we have now seen our economy steadily decline for over a year when the average decline lasts 10 months and a stock market decline of 38 percent when the average rate of decline in an economic downturn is 30 percent. However, there is good news; now more than ever people are interested in economic security and wanting to address the issue head-on. The actions of the EESI have proven to be successful due in part to the increased popularity of the retirement savings issue and we look forward to this added interest leading to even more successes for elder economic security in the near future.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Social Security Benefits Get A "Raise"

For Immediate Release

Contact: Joan Grangenois-Thomas
212-627-2404 or joan@makewavesnotnoise.com

October 21, 2008

Social Security Benefits Get a "Raise"

Washington, DC - It was reported last week that Social Security benefits for 50 million older Americans will go up 5.8 percent next year, the largest increase in more than a quarter century. The increase takes effect in January, 2009. Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), welcomes this increase.

The following is a statement by Ramsey Alwin, Director of National Economic Security Programs at Wider Opportunities for Women:

"WOW is gratified to see that Social Security benefits will rise 5.8% next year. For many elders, however, this increase will still leave them short of economic security. WOW has known for some time what it takes for older Americans to attain economic security. Our tool, the Elder Economic Security Index will help policymakers, service providers and others construct realistic and effective policies and programs to help older Americans secure the income necessary to live independently and well.

This increase is a very important first step of a long journey to helping millions of older Americans age with dignity. WOW stands ready to help."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Economic Security vs. Poverty, What’s the Difference?

Today is National Blog Action Day on Poverty. People all over the country are blogging about why poverty is an important topic for discussion and why we must work toward ending it in our communities across the nation and worldwide.

Last week, representatives from WOW and some of our state partners met in DC to discuss the importance of language in creating policy and program change to eliminate poverty. We believe eliminating poverty is an important goal. Another goal, and perhaps more important, is getting women and their families on track to self-sufficiency and lifelong economic security.

During our meeting, one of the exercises involved placing a list of words, such as deprivation, poverty, income inadequacy, middle class, decent living standard and economic independence, on an income continuum, ranging from $0 to economic nirvana. Interestingly, I noticed that our state partners did not equate “middle class” with “economic security”. But in retrospect, there are many levels of economic (in)security. Many hard working Americans are living paycheck to paycheck without being able to save for their retirement, education or an emergency, and that is not a secure place to be. Yet, this reality is neither discussed nor captured in most anti-poverty policies and programs.

WOW supports and encourages the discussion taking place today. Nevertheless, we are working to create a national shift in the language surrounding poverty to one of economic security for all. Part of this effort involves re-examining the way poverty is measured and offering concrete alternatives and solutions. To truly solve the problem of poverty, or economic (in)security, we need a more precise tool to measure economic security.

The Federal Poverty Line is an antiquated and insufficient standard of economic living which assumes one-third of an American family’s income is used for food. The Federal Poverty Line grossly underestimates economic (in)security in the United States. Many Americans know first-hand what it means not to have enough. They sacrifice heating or cooling their homes, eating nutritious foods and cut pills in half to get by. An arbitrary number that quantifies this reality is not a useful tool in moving out of their circumstance. What they really need to know is how much is enough and how to get there. Policymakers also need to know what it takes to be economically secure in order to shape effective policy.

WOW’s tools, the Self-Sufficiency Standard and the Elder Economic Security Standard Index, provide a geographically-based measure of what it really takes to make ends meet. These measures provide families and elders a map to economic security, whether it be a result of education and training, a job, income or work supports or some combination of these. Only when one knows where they are going can they reach economic security.

Today I challenge you to think about poverty in a slightly different way. Instead of defining the issue in regard to what one does not have, let’s try to change the national discourse one voice at a time by blogging about helping all Americans leverage the talents and personal assets they do have to become economically secure.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Media Release: The Road to Economic Security for Retirees and Families

For Immediate Release

Contact: Joan Grangenois-Thomas

212-627-2404 or joan@makewavesnotnoise.com

October 14, 2008

The Road to Economic Security for Retirees and Families

Washington, DC - Both presidential campaign camps have put forth their ideas on how to get the economy back on track. Wider Opportunities for Women has known for quite some time what’s needed for retirees to reach economic security.

The following is a statement by Ramsey Alwin, Director of National Economic Security Programs at Wider Opportunities for Women:

“Leaders and decision makers, including the presidential candidates and the Bush Administration, have announced plans to restore economic security to retirees who are feeling the sting of the current economic downturn. We commend these efforts to offer solutions, such as allowing people to borrow from their 401k plans without penalties. But, many elders well into their golden years have spent down most of their retirement savings or they never had retirement plans to begin with. Price increases on food, home utilities, gasoline and other basic goods put these elders in real jeopardy and they need help now. WOW has a new tool, the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index, that will help policymakers assess what that help should look like for elders nationwide. We want to help policymakers construct realistic, effective policies to help older Americans live well and independently.”

Friday, October 10, 2008

What Does Saving For Retirement Get You These Days?

This week, top Congressional budget analysts reported that about $2 trillion of Americans’ retirement savings is now gone due to the continuing decline of the stock market. In addition, older Americans are working longer than they use to, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting the number of elder workers to increase by more than 80% by the year 2016. Is this because we want to continue to work? Or we have to continue to work?

As a recent college graduate, it is honestly hard to fathom being a senior citizen in this economy. Seniors who have worked hard all these years, paid into the system, found themselves prior to the economic downturn sacrificing basic needs just to stretch their dollar further. The recent economic downturn has been a double hit to many seniors with the price of goods and services increasing and their investments falling. The combination has made it all the more difficult to achieve economic security.

Older Americans who planned to be economically secure in their later years are now unsure of their net worth. Many older workers who were once anxiously awaiting retirement are now recalibrating how much longer they must continue to work. For those with jobs that cannot be continued into old age, there is no alternative but to retire and/or look for a new occupation that is more conducive to later in life.

Amidst all the negative news, we can be thankful that Social Security was not privatized these last seven years, so elders can, at least for now, count on Social Security as a source of stable and secure income in retirement. But as the Elder Economic Security Index demonstrates, Social Security alone is not enough.

Even workers who felt economically secure at one point are now seeing their pensions, stocks and 401(k)s on shaky ground. The Elder Economic Security Initiative (EESI) is playing a critical role in helping all elders and their caregivers recognize what it takes to make basic ends meet. EESI is particularly focused on helping our more vulnerable and frail low-income elders reach economic security in these tough economic times. To that end, EESI was recently featured in the Fall 2008 issue of Innovations, a publication of the National Council on Aging in an article, titled, “Keeping Low-Income Seniors Afloat”.

Do you have a personal story to share about how the economic downturn is affecting you or an elder you know? If so, please send your story to ahowell@wowonline.org.

Be sure to participate in the Blog Action Day on Poverty on
October 15 by blogging about the importance of elder economic security!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Elders Can't Bail Out

This week, the financial institutions, markets, and legislative bodies have been stressed beyond measure. Financial entities are struggling to support themselves and caught in a buy-in; buy out cycle, while the House and Senate worked aimlessly at crafting a bill that would not make taxpayers ultimately pay for the failures of the financial corporations. Elders are feeling the economic crisis just as much as anyone else, if not more. In addition, they cannot bail out of their everyday living costs and needs no matter what the economy looks like. In a Los Angeles Times article this week, titled, “The Golden Years have Lost their Glow”, elder citizens discuss their frustration with the shrinking housing market, rising costs of healthcare, and their 401(k) plans declining because of the economic downturn.

Key points in the article include:

- Last month 16.4% of seniors age 65 and older were in the workforce, highest percentage in 38 years, according to the Department of Labor

- Americans age 55 and older have experienced the sharpest increase in bankruptcy than any other age group, almost 25% of the total population of filers, according to an AARP report

- Homeowners age 50 and over represent 28% of homeowner delinquencies and foreclosures, according an AARP report

These statistics are why EESI continues to work toward economic security for elders. The financial woes of the stock market are having negative effects on elders wanting to retire or those already retired because they cannot afford to keep their homes, and some feel forced to continue working just to make ends meet. For more information about the standard of economic security, check out the Elder Index, a tool that maps out the average revenue needed for basic economic security for elders.

Friday, September 26, 2008

EESI's New Program Assistant Introduction

I am Alisha Howell, the new Program Assistant for the Elder Economic Security Initiative at Wider Opportunities for Women (and I’m also the new blog-poster)! My weekly blogs will keep you up-to-date with the latest economic security issues affecting elders, and elder women especially.

Working at WOW for just 5 days now, I can already see the positive impact the organization has on women throughout the country. In particular, the EESI has helped elders become more economically secure by raising awareness and advocating to pass legislation in favor of income support benefits such as low-income assistance with prescription drugs. In addition, the EESI has worked on improving the housing situation for elder women, too by providing data on their housing needs in relation to their retirement income. The organization cares about sharing ordinary people’s stories and realizes the importance of connecting actual faces to the problems we see facing senior citizens. In fact, you can check out one of the personal stories here.

After attending several panels and a hearing this week, I came away with a better understanding of the EESI agenda and a sense of pride and excitement. I am proud to now be a part of an organization that cares about issues critical to the well-being of all Americans, and excited to see what we accomplish next!

I look forward to providing you with useful information through this blog and if there is a topic you want to know more about, please let me know by sending an email to ahowell@wowonline.org.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Reality Check

Recently, the Center for American Progress published an article that highlighted the realities of elderly poverty. As you know, we at EESI have worked tirelessly to bring this issue to the forefront, so we appreciate this effort as well. The article, titled, Elder Poverty: The Challenge Before Us, provides some background on the economic status of America's seniors and also some data analysis on social programs and demographics. Some of the tidbits I found to be most interesting are listed below:

[] Women ages 75 and up are over three times as likely to be living in poverty as men in the same age range. Only 416,000 men in this age range live at or below the poverty line, while over 1.3 million women ages 75 and up are poor.

[] If the monetary benefits from all public programs were excluded from their incomes, more than 6 in 10 African American and Hispanic American elderly would be poor.

[] Rural elderly have higher rates of poverty than the urban elderly, and rural areas tend to have a higher percentage of elderly in their total population than their urban counterparts.

[] According to 2006 U.S. Department of Agriculture data, almost 18 percent of low-income elderly (with incomes below 130 percent of the poverty line) who live with others are food insecure, as are more than 12 percent of low-income seniors who live alone.

If you are interested in more facts and figures regarding the economic status of seniors in America, please make sure to visit the Elder Economic Security Initiative webpages - there we have provided numerous publications and resources for both personal and public use, including the Elder Economic Security Stanadard Index which benchmarks the cost of living for older Americans based on their locality.

Comments Please: What kind of resources/data have you found useful as elder issues become increasingly significant in social policy?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Video: Seniors Being Forced Out of Their Homes

In California, there has been a wave of home-owning seniors being forced out of their homes or forced into poverty because they are taken advantage of and railroaded out of their communities. This montage offers a closer look at the difficulties being faced by senior citizens who own their own mobile homes but are being undermined by large real estate companies capitalizing on their limited finances.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Female Face of Foreclosure

This past Friday, the National Council of Women's Organizations sponsored a Congressional briefing focused on The Impact of Subprime Lending on Women.

Our own Ramsey Alwin, Director of the National Elder Economic Security Initiative, was a featured speaker at the briefing and here is an excerpt from the valuable information she shared:
Housing plays a unique role in the life of older Americans. It not only serves as shelter, but also provides a sense of comfort and security. Housing provides wealth to the approximately 80% of Americans 65+ who own their own homes. For many seniors, especially low-income seniors, the home is their sole asset and source of wealth. As the purchasing power of retirement benefits, such as Social Security, is eroded by the rising cost of basic goods and services, such an asset becomes critical in assuring economic security later in life. Given the current economic downturn, the phrase “asset rich and cash poor” is an increasingly accurate descriptor of aging communities nationwide, particularly among those who own their own homes. Regardless of an elder’s financial status, housing figures prominently in a resident’s quality of life, and it can influence a person’s physical independence and ability to participate in community life. Housing is a basic building block of a livable community in which an elder can age in place with dignity.

The subprime mortgage crisis and the subsequent foreclosure flurry have crushed the bedrock of economic security for elders – homeownership.

Lifetime financial security and homeownership is a cornerstone of the American dream: if you work hard and follow the rules, you will be able to retire to your own home without financial worries. Yet, women who do just that continue to find themselves more likely to age into poverty than men. This is especially so for women of color. The cumulative effects of pay inequity, occupational segregation in low-wage jobs, and work place policies that do not honor or acknowledge caregiving responsibilities find older women with fewer resources upon retirement. This latest subprime crisis only further compounds this injustice.

For more information, Please view the fact sheet: Older Women and the Impact of Housing Status on Economic Security

Comments please: Has the economic well-being of older women in your family or in your community suffered because of the mortgage crisis?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Out With The Old, In With The New

Introduction of Measuring American Poverty Act - “Long Overdue”
Current Federal Poverty Level Deeply Flawed

Wider Opportunities for Women applauds Subcommittee Chairman Jim McDermott for his draft legislation to revise the 55-year-old federal poverty line unveiled on Thursday, July 17th at a hearing before the Income Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee .
The proposal goes a long way toward addressing the deep flaws in the current measure in use since 1964.
In addition, WOW is most pleased with the proposal’s authorization of a new study by the National Academy of Sciences to determine a definition of a “decent living standard threshold,” or “the amount of annual income that would allow an individual to live beyond deprivation at a safe and decent, but modest, standard of income.” (Sec. 1150C) Anticipating that this would be a measure of genuine income adequacy rather than the deprivation measured by the new poverty line, it holds great potential for use by individuals, program administrators and policy-makers. We hope it does not get overlooked in the rightful attention that will be given to revising the poverty measure.

Underpinning Chairman McDermott’s proposed Modern Poverty Measure is the National Academy of Science’s 1995 report on measuring poverty, which properly addressed many of the flawed assumptions and methodology of the current poverty level. In applying these recommendations to a Modern Poverty Measure (MPM), we recommend that final legislation:
ADD bullets to the items found below:

· Include the cost of health care, child care and transportation as part of the threshold for the reference family rather than as a subtraction from income. While not universal, such expenses are critical and often determinate of financial viability for working families.

· Make the MPM as geographically specific as possible, considering variation, as the NAS report stated, “…to the maximum extent possible.” While housing has a disproportionate impact on family income needs, and housing markets vary significantly across the country, the Self-Sufficiency Standard demonstrates that it is possible to identify non-housing expenses and data sources such as through child care market rate surveys mandated by TANF.

· Account for critical demographic differences reflected in age. Those 65 or older do not have the same work-related expense as working age Americans, and their economic well-being is greatly affected by their housing and health status. The discussion draft’s “medical risk index” will address this but outside the framework of a threshold for a decent income.

· Establish a commission to review annual findings that informs the public how many Americans are living at or below the new poverty measure and the proposed “decent standard of living.” The Commission should make recommendations on how to close the income gap for those whose income does not equal the “decent standard living.” The information should be analyzed for individual cohorts of age, gender and race.
To read the statement in its entirety please visit the following link: http://www.wowonline.org/ourprograms/fess/documents/PressStatement_Poverty_July2008.pdf

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Double Whammy!

Today we have TWO exciting topics for discussion - the release of the Wisconsin Elder Economic Security Standard Index and the Aspen Institute's "Security 'Plus' Annuities " Plan.

First, Wider Opportunities for Women in partnership with the Wisconsin Women's Network is proud to announce the successful release of the Wisconsin EESI.

The Wisconsin Index is a measure of the living expenses for older adults in the community for housing, health care, food, transportation and minor miscellaneous costs. It is calibrated to address the specific costs of an older person’s real life circumstances, rather than the antiquated "federal poverty level," which is based solely on an average older adult’s food costs. The Wisconsin Index offers precise and geographically-specific information on an older adult’s costs based on her particular household size, housing tenure and health. This latest launch brings the National EESI to a total of five states – MA, CA, PA, IL and WI.

To get a better idea of the impact the Elder Economic Security Initiative is going to have on Wisconsin, visit any or all of the following links and stay tuned:

>WI EESI Webpage
>WI EESI Fact Sheet
>Video News Report: WisconsinEye
>News Story: Wisconsin Radio News Network
>News Story: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
>News Story: ABC - WISN News

Now, on to the Aspen Institute Security "Plus" Annuities Plan...

Here are some key features and concepts of the Security Plus Plan:
[] The Security “Plus” Plan is designed to jump-start a market for life annuities for younger workers. It would provide America’s retirees with an opportunity to buy an extra layer of secure income on top of Social Security through a simple and convenient government-facilitated program.
[] Security “Plus” annuities use the federal government as an intermediary to market and distribute annuities, provide supportive administrative services and select annuity providers. This keeps the private sector in its customary role as an underwriter of group annuities and prices annuities at current market rates but without premium taxes or advisor fees.
[] Security “Plus” annuity payments are automatically added to monthly Social Security checks.
[] Security “Plus” annuities minimize the risk that retirees will outlive or lose their savings. If just 10 percent buy a Security “Plus” annuity, that means 200,000-400,000 Americans each year will increase their financial security in retirement.

For more information about the Aspen Institute's innovative retirement savings concept, please read the following report: http://www.wowonline.org/pdf/AspenInstituteSavingsproposal_2.pdf
Comments Please: Do you think the Aspen Security Plus Plan could make retirement saving easier or more reliable?

Friday, June 6, 2008

No Shelter from Foreclosure

As some of you may know, the Associated Press recently reported that former television star Ed McMahon may lose his Los Angeles home to foreclosure. While this economic downturn may just now begin to be felt by wealthy Americans, the majority of us have been at its mercy for quite some time.

Older Americans have been particularly vulnerable in this foreclosure wave having to surrender their last asset as the costs of medical coverage, home upkeep, and other goods and services continue to eclipse their retirement incomes. As WOW Executive Director, Joan Kuriansky stated in Thursday's press release "The news reports of the foreclosure proceedings on Ed McMahon's home in Los Angeles begs the question, 'If Mr. McMahon, with all his status and resources, is in this situation, what are the prospects for ordinary men and women living on fixed incomes?'"
WOW's Elder Economic Security Initiative™ in partnership with the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston, has created the Elder Economic Security Standard Index™ in order to help policymakers, service providers and others construct realistic and effective policies and programs to help older Americans secure the income necessary to live independently and well.

The Index is a realistic measure of what it costs to live in the US today, with the data calculated on a county by county basis. In Los Angeles County, where Mr. McMahon lives, it takes $30,591 for a single senior just to meet housing and other minimum basic expenses when they are still carrying a mortgage. If they have paid off their mortgage, they still need $16,355 per year to meet basic expenses. Figures like these help to put things into perspective when taking into consideration that the vast majority of older Americans have only a small fraction of the economic resources of Mr. McMahon. For example, The average Social Security payment of $12,540 is not enough to live on, and yet, one out of three seniors in California rely exclusively on Social Security to cover their basic costs.

To find out what it takes for seniors to make ends meet in your area, please visit the EESI website: http://www.wowonline.org/ourprograms/eesi/
Comments Please: Have you noticed older neighbors in your community losing their homes to forclosure?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Medicare Part D Could Be Helping More

Recently the U.S. Government Accountability Office has been looking more closely at the financial and health challenges faced by older Americans. As you know, many Americans who are no longer able to participate in the workforce often find themselves lacking resources. As a result, the GAO has decided to take yet another look at LIS - the Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy and its effectiveness. This is particularly significant because as the National Elder Economic Security Index illustrates, LIS is a valuable support program that can help older Americans reach economic security.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Congressional Budget Office have estimated, respectively, that about 2.6 million to over 4 million individuals who may qualify for the Medicare prescription drug low-income subsidy are not receiving it. Various barriers, such as reluctance to disclose personal financial information or lack of knowledge of the subsidy, may prevent potentially eligible Medicare beneficiaries from applying for the subsidy.

To view the highlights of the report, go to http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d08812thigh.pdf .

To learn more about the role Medicare Part D LIS can play in achieving economic security, please visit the Elder Economic Security Initiative website: http://www.wowonline.org/ourprograms/eesi/
Comments Please: Have you or a family member encountered problems with the accessibility of the Medicare Part D LIS Program?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Promoting Individual Retirement Saving

The discourse on individual retirement saving continues to heat up! Recently a series of forums have been held on this topic here in DC. In late April, we had the chance to attend one such forum which was moderated by J. Mark Iwry of the Brookings Institution and Retirement Security Project. Presenters included Teresa Ghilarducci of the New School for Social Research, Gene Sperling of the Center for American Progress, and David C. John of the Heritage Foundation and Retirement Security Project.

To provide some context for the discussion Mr. Iwry opened by making a few statements regarding retirement income. He first insisted that the retirement security problem is largely a health care problem because it accounts for such a large amount of retiree out-of- pocket costs. He followed by insisting that program and policy change needs to target moderate to lower income people and utilize more saving incentives.

Ms. Ghilarducci's points of emphasis were that those currently in their 40s and 50s are likely to be the first generation to experience a significant decrease in living standards in old age. However, EESI data shows that this is not a new problem for women and especially women of color. Her presentation centered a Guaranteed Retirement Accounts (GRAs) proposal. Under the GRAs plan, most employers and workers would be required to contribute. Contributions would be lightly subsidized, returns would be guaranteed, and the investment funds would be managed by the federal government. The GRAs would serve as a supplement to Social Security income.

Mr. Sperling's presentation focused on the idea that we need to "disrupt the system as little as possible" by implementing a portable saving system with a matching tax credit -- the Universal 401(k) Plan with automatic enrollment features.

Mr. John’s proposal focused on individual responsibility and individual savings. He made the case that savings would increase with automatic enrollment (employee participation as the default option). He also encouraged employers and employees to take advantage of existing payroll deduction systems.

While we always support increased dialogue surrounding retirement security, it was clear that this forum’s focus was primarily on those with the means to save. The reality is that few and fewer Americans have the extra resources to do so. A robust discussion on retirement security should include program and policy changes that would positively affect those working so hard each day just to make their basic ends meet, that do not have the extra funds to allocate to savings. With the rising cost of necessities such as food and gas this cohort is only going to balloon. This growing majority needs solutions that acknowledge and honor their years of work and does not penalize them for their self-sufficient manner during their working years. We hope that advocates and policymakers find the Elder Economic Security Initiative useful in informing the various proposals. The difficulties faced by low wage workers and the cumulative disadvantage faced by the majority of women in the workforce are largely left out of the discussion though they are an integral part of the spectrum.

For more information on the forum described above, please visit the following webpage: http://www.aarp.org/research/ppi/policylive.html

Comments Please: We must focus program and policy discussions to building upon current structures in a manner that reasonably recognizes the current economic landscape. Specifically, what kinds of program do you think those who are most vulnerable during their retirement years would benefit from the most, with regard to retirement income adequacy?

Friday, May 2, 2008

EESI Action Alert!

Help Protect Vulnerable Seniors Against Rising Medicare Costs!

Join aging advocates in contacting key Republican senators in eight states about protecting seniors in greatest need against rising Medicare premiums. Since 2000, Medicare premiums have more than doubled. The Senate is now crafting a bill designed to increase payments to Medicare physicians, which will increase beneficiary premiums even further. Unfortunately, programs designed to assist poor seniors with these costs are broken and must be fixed. Please contact key Senators about improving the programs designed to protect low-income Medicare beneficiaries against rising costs. The Senators include: McConnell and Bunning (KY), Sununu (NH), Roberts (KS), Collins and Snowe (ME), Coleman (MN), Stevens (AK), Grassley (IA), and Specter (PA).

If you're from one of these states, please take a moment now to call AND e-mail your senator(s). You can call (866) 622-2184 toll-free to be connected to the Capitol switchboard. Ask for your senator by name and feel free to use the following proposed talking points for calls:

[]Since 2000, Medicare premiums have more than doubled. Proposed Senate increases in Medicare physician payments will cause additional increases in beneficiary premiums and make them even more difficult to afford.

[]Unfortunately, programs designed to assist poor seniors with such rapidly rising costs are broken and must be fixed.

[]The Senate Medicare bill will make things worse unless provisions are included to improve assistance for those who can least afford increasing premiums.

[]The bill should simplify and align Medicare low-income assistance programs, bring outdated asset limits in line with today’s cost of living, and improve outreach and participation for those currently eligible.

[]The Medicare bill should help beneficiaries, not just providers. Helping seniors with incomes below $15,000 is as or more important than helping doctors with incomes over $150,000.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Taking A Look at Part D

This week the Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report highlighted a study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association on the impact of the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit.

Two key findings of the study indicated that the overall percentage of seniors who skipped taking medications due to cost issues has decreased since the January 2006 implementation of the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit. However, the study also showed that there has been no improvement with regard to skipping pills among the sickest participants.

Researchers also found that 60% were unaware their plans had the so-called "doughnut hole" coverage gap. "The new Medicare Part D program provides billions of dollars in new benefits for seniors, but also imposes complex and high levels of cost-sharing," Hsu said in a statement, adding, "The study shows that many seniors have trouble understanding these benefits and that this poor knowledge limits their ability to manage their medication needs and costs" (Dunham, Reuters, 4/22).

For more information about the study please click HERE to visit the Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report or HERE to visit the abstract of the study at the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Comments Please: How have the costs of prescription drugs impacted your life or the lives of your family members?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Continuing the Dialogue

On Wednesday, April 16th, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing entitled "Caring For Our Seniors: How Can We Support Those On The Frontlines?". The Committee Chairman, Senator H. Kohl (D-WI) led the hearing. During the hearing Senators engaged in dialogue with distinguished panelists including professors of medicine, geriatrics and aging issues as well as practitioners in those fields. The topics discussed included:

[]Improving training and retention strategies for caregivers;

[]Placing a higher value on geriatric medicine;

[] Recruiting more students and creating more incentives for them;

[]Balancing concerns about the Medicare trust fund and concerns about providing adequate geriatric care including wages;

[]Broad-based approaches to caregiving; and

[]Resources for family caregivers.

The other side of the caregiving issue was also discussed – informal care. An ever increasing number of Americans find themselves caring both for their children as well as their parents. According to a National Alliance of Caregivers (NAC)/AARP survey, in November 2006, between 30 million and 38 million adult caregivers provided care to adults with limitation in an activity of daily living. Caregivers provide on average 21 hours of care per week. About half of caregivers contribute financially to their parent’s budget, spending on average $200 per month or $2,400 per year. According to a 2004 NAC/AARP study, about 23% of caregivers say that caregiving is a financial hardship. The findings of this survey illustrate that 1) many seniors are coming up short financially and rely upon their children to help plug the gap; 2) almost one-fifth of workers are informal caregivers; and 3) when caregivers take time off from work and contribute financially to their parents, they come up short in their retirement and so the cycle continues. Policy must be crafted to address the current shortfalls regarding both formal and informal caregiving. At WOW, we are particularly interested in see parity in part-time work for those finding themselves in need of providing informal care. We also feel strongly about providing professional caregivers self-sufficient wages as well as health and retirement benefits. But this is just the beginning; we need to start to think more holistically about the role of the public and private sector when it comes to caregiving. Our economy can no longer afford to rely upon the private support of families to carry the full responsibility of caregiving. The hearing held on this topic is a good first step in the right direction.

For more information about the witnesses or to read testimony, please visit the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging's website by clicking HERE.

Comments Please: What have you experienced in the caregiving industry or family caregiving? What aspects need to be improved upon as older Americans become a significantly larger part of our population?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

No Easy Way Out for Seniors

In the midst of our struggling economy and whirlwind of home foreclosures, disturbing predatory practices continue to thrive. Opportunistic and suspect characters are already swindling hard working older Americans out of their opportunity to achieve economic security through homeownership!

According to the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), there are at least three “foreclosure scams” in play today with our seniors as the number one target - Phantom Help, False Bailouts, and Bait-And-Switch. Each of these practices preys upon seniors teetering on economic insecurity and quickly running low on funds and resources. These lopsided strategies often result in older Americans incurring additional debt and/or having to surrender their most important facet of economic security - their homes.

Thankfully policymakers are taking the time to look at the issue specifically from the perspective of seniors. Recently a hearing was held about the impact of foreclosures on the elderly by the Senate Special Committee on Aging. It was chaired by Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI). It seems foreclosure scammers hone in on elders because in comparison to others they have larger equity on their properties. Although, as the title of this blog suggests, there is no easy way out of foreclosure troubles there are appropriate steps that can be taken and help is available. NCLC suggests the following strategies:

[]Get Legal Advice Immediately;
[]Apply for Income Maintenance, Tax Abatement and Public Assistance Programs;
[]Negotiate with the Mortgage Company or Servicer;
[]Refinance the Home Debt;
[]Consider Selling the House Before Foreclosure; and
[]Consider Filing Bankruptcy.

Most importantly advocates and service providers must inform seniors of these predatory practices and steer them clear of the landmine that they are. As the Elder Economic Security Standard Index demonstrates, assets such as homes are extremely critical to an elder’s economic security. Even so, if an elder must return to renter status by selling their home free and clear, that can be a better alternative to getting caught in the web of these foreclosure scams.

Comments Please: Has someone in your family been approached by a suspect individual suggesting they can "save" them from the housing crisis by entering into a new contract with them?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Today the Tax Policy Center (co-directed by The Urban Institute and The Brookings Institution) hosted an event titled "Race, Ethnicity, Poverty, and the Tax-Transfer System" which was a quite interesting discussion. The main topics were Education, Work and Family Incentives, and Social Security as related to tax policy. As one might expect, the EESI team zeroed in on the third topic.

The panelist discussing Social Security was Melissa M. Favreault, a Senior Research Associate in the Urban Institute's Income and Benefits Policy Center. Ms. Favreault brought up quite a few interesting points regarding low-income older Americans and The Social Security system. Among the most notable are the following, many of which are illustrated by the Elder Standard™ Index:

[]Economic status upon retirement is highly cumulative as various disadvantages compound over a lifetime;

[] For the average low-wage worker, their Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) contribution in combination with the shifted burden of the employee contribution (by a reduction in wages), over a lifetime, often exceeds their take home pay;

[] Because Social Security pays benefits in the form of life annuities, those with longer life expectancy can expect to receive larger payouts. As a result, the literature suggests many men and women of color often pay into the system more than they receive in payout;
[] Decoupling supplemental Social Security benefits from marriage and rather directing them toward child care or other dependent care would be the only true way of honoring and compensating caregiving contributions across lines of race, ethnicity and sexual preference;
[] Social Security comprises 90%+ of income for adults 65 and older in the bottom income quintile as compared to just 28% for the middle quintile.

For more information, visit the EESI section of the Wider Opportunities for Women website or contact lbeasley@wowonline.org

Comments Please: Have you experienced the magnification of disparities upon retirement personally or with a family member?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Check Us Out! EESI is Making A Cameo!

This week the American Society on Aging and the National Council on Aging hosts the 2008 Aging in America Conference here in DC and the Elder Economic Security Initiative™ Program contributed to three workshops as well as a plenary. Please click on the headings below to view the presentations.

Women Must Act Now to Ensure Income Security as They Age
March 27, 2008 at 10:15 a.m.
Marriott Hotel, Balcony D

Redefining Elder Poverty and Income Adequacy
March 27, 2008 at 10:15 a.m.
Marriott Hotel, Washington Hall 5

Seniors in Poverty: A Daily Struggle
March 28, 2008 at 8:00 a.m.
Marriott Hotel – Thurgood Marshall Ballroom East
Plenary session featuring Joan Kuriansky, Executive Director of WOW as well as Msgr. Charles Fahey, NCOA Board member (pictured to the upper right)

Aging with Dignity: A National Campaign
March 29, 2008 at 9:15 a.m.
Marriott Hotel, Thurgood Marshall Ballroom East

We are extremely honored to be a part of such a distinguished group and we hope the conference attendees, as well as those of you gathering information here, gain a new perspective on economic security and income adequacy as a result of WOW's presence at the 2008 ASA-NCOA Aging in America Conference.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's Never Too Late

It's never too late to learn about or take strides toward economic security (nor is it ever too early). Although they have yet to become a part of mainstream thought, things like LiLAs and scholarships can make a difference in the lives of older Americans.

The AARP Foundation's Women's Scholarship Program is an exemplary opportunity for women to improve their economic security. The program "provides scholarship funds to women 40+ seeking new job skills, training, and educational opportunities to support themselves and their families, and improve their communities."

The first round of scholarships were awarded to a diverse group of women who, with the help of friends, family members, and counselors, recognized that economic security is not a lost cause.
[]Nearly 34% of the recipients are grandparents raising grandchildren
[]Roughly 62% of the recipients are using the scholarship funds for short vocational programs
[]Three recipients are military veterans
[]Two recipients are Hurricane Katrina survivors

Programs like these directly assist the population that the Elder Economic Security Initiative reaches out to by encouraging career advancement and strides toward economic security at all stages of life.

For information about strategies for Elder Economic Security, click here.

Comments Please: Do you think that creating more scholarship opportunities specifically for older adults will empower individuals to consider education and training programs as a vehicle for economic security later in life as a result of improved career paths?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Get a life! (Lifelong Learning Account that is...)

There's a new way to invest in your economic security and it's called a LiLA - a Lifelong Learning Account. At WOW our mission and efforts are focused on economic independence for women and girls at all stages of life. The pathway to income adequacy at all stages of life is career advancement!

LiLAs are employer-matched, portable individual savings accounts used to finance education and training—like a 401(k) for skill building and career advancement. With LiLAs, mature workers can upgrade their skills and knowledge to meet the needs of business and industry while achieving their personal career goals including working toward retirement security. Account funds can be used for a variety of training related costs such as tuition, fees, books, supplies, and even career counseling. One of our favorite features of the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning model LiLA is its universal eligibility meaning all individual workers are eligible for lifelong learning accounts.

The LiLA concept seems to be gaining popularity among companies, legislators, and other organizations concerned with workforce development. Lifelong learning strategies have proven beneficial for nations like Finland and could be one of the solutions we've been looking for as well. Putting personal growth and economic security as well as greater economic growth on the same team could encourage job growth across the board. LiLAs also create opportunities to support workers who want or may need to stay in the workforce to do so by proving opportunities to transfer manual labor job skills to positions which require less physical exertion.

Fore more information: visit the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning LiLA website

Comments Please: Do you think LiLAs are a good idea? Do you know of any companies that have added LiLAs to their benefit portfolio?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Seniors Going Hungry

This morning, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing titled "Seniors Going Hungry in America: A Call to Action and Warning for the Future." There were 8 witnesses including representatives from government agencies, local volunteer groups, large non-profits and academia.

This hearing was significant because the issue of food insecurity among senior citizens continues to grow as America ages demographically. During the hearing, Committee members spent their time either applauding the panelists or grilling them for more data.

The interest of Committee members was peeked when an authority from the USDA Food Nutrition and Consumer Services tried to make the case that the often told story that elders only qualify for the $10 minimum Food Stamps benefit was a myth. According to a recent WOW brief, we know Food Stamps are not properly designed to support retired elders. Food Stamps are a work support (rather than an income support), and elders who lack earnings, child care and notable medical or medical insurance expenses (when they qualify for Medicaid or Medicare Savings Programs, do not pay for medical insurance, or cannot pay for medical insurance) are expected to pay for their own food. For instance, elder renters in low-cost counties in California with incomes just above the poverty level will receive less than 1% of their economic security from Food Stamps – no more than $10 in most cases. Single elder and elder couple renters in high-cost areas fare better, and will likely receive a 4%-7% boost in income security due to their higher housing expenses. Yet, food expenses often comprise 20% of a local Elder Economic Security Standard Index.

The USDA panelist also discussed something that we, at EESI, continue to work on which is dissolving the stigma for elders who need assistance. To that end, the panelist suggested that the USDA has been considering a name change for their electronic food stamps program.

Edwin Walker of the AoA also brought up an important subject, ADRCs - Aging and Disability Resource Centers. These centers are being implanted around the country to help seniors and caregivers learn about services and supports that can assist older Americans in achieving economic security.

FRAC's James Weill made an excellent point about the Food Stamps minimum benefit by stating "Because of the interaction between Social Security and Supplemental Security Income cash levels and food stamp rules, the $10 minimum applies most often to seniors and persons with disabilities. The amount helps too little and discourages very needy people from going through an often complicated application process (and may be paying $10 or $20 to get to and from the food stamp office) to obtain such a small amount. A significant increase in the minimum benefit is long overdue."

Senators Smith and Wyden focused on quality control, waiting lists problems and the need for more participation data.

For more information, click the link to the hearing's page: Seniors Going Hungry in America: A Call to Action and Warning for the Future

Comments Please: What are local organizations in your area doing to help prevent seniors from going without proper nutrition?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hot Off the Press: EESI Makes a Splash in California

Yesterday marked the official release of the California Elder Economic Security Initiative (Cal-EESI). The result of a great partnership between WOW and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, the Cal-EESI is sure to lead a change in dialogue about income adequacy for California's elders.
Make sure to stay up to date on the Cal-EESI and the California Elder Economic Security Standard Index by visiting the WOW website or by clicking here!

Want to see what the media is saying about the Cal-EESI Project? Check out the links:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Employee Retirement Income Security Act Now Packs a Punch

Last week, in LaRue v. DeWolff the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that participants in most 401(k) plans do, in fact, have the right to sue firms in the event of account mismanagement. This decision is of particular importance because not only did the Justices actually reach a unanimous decision, but they also overturned two decades of precedent.

As retirement income becomes a monumental concern, this ruling will become increasingly relied upon. The volatile economy coupled with resource scarcity and vulnerability faced by workers and elders make LaRue v. DeWolff decision very timely.

The Court’s intention was to provide a framework for accountability which was reflected in the vagueness of the ruling and the variety in their opinions. For us, this means that 401(k) participants and investment firms will spend the next few months battling it out so-to-speak in terms of what this ruling means in application.

Consumer protection has always prompted corporate push-back so until the dust settles, be extra cautious…your retirement depends on it!

Comments please: Do you think this ruling will affect retirees positively - offering them a protection safety-net or negatively by driving up the prices of 401(k) management?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Welcome to our team's newest addition - The EESI Blog!

This blog serves to add a new aspect to our National Elder Econcomic Security Initiative™ program. As the Initiative continues to grow, our goal is to maintain its well-roundedness and continue to establish new outlets and community connections.

The Initiative offers a new perspective and a new metric for measuring income adequacy – The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index. The Index provides geographically-based data on what it takes to make ends meet when you are 65 and older. Most recently, WOW has taken a look at how the average Social Security income and other sources of retirement income, including pensions, measure up the Index. To learn more, take a look at our brief titled, “Single Women’s Retirement Income Falls Short…”

Consider this blog an invitation to learn, discuss and participate in the Initiative and related issues. Please check it often, as we will have guest writers, event updates, polls and surveys, and "food for thought"!

For more information/questions/concerns, contact: lbeasley@wowonline.org