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:

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:
Comments Please: Do you think the Aspen Security Plus Plan could make retirement saving easier or more reliable?