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

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

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

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.