Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Keeping the Promise of Social Security for Older Women and their Families

Last week, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) celebrated Women’s Equality Day and we continue to commemorate the women who came before us and advocated for our right to vote. Even today, however, there are still women’s issues to address, like equal pay. We encourage you and your networks to participate with us next month in a push to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. Unequal pay continues to affect a woman's ability to make ends meet in retirement. As August comes to a close and we near the end of our month-long celebration of Social Security, we here at WOW would like to reflect on just how much Social Security helps older women reach economic security.

The Elder Index, a measure of income adequacy for adults 65 and over, developed by WOW and the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston, shows that women who live on Social Security alone receive on average just $12,536, though what is needed to make it is anywhere from $16,415 to $24,455 depending on their housing status. This means older women relying solely on Social Security receive 51 to 76 percent of what is needed to be secure in retirement. Despite the inability to provide 100% of the income needed to meet basic needs, Social Security is a reliable base of support for older women.

Furthermore, due to care giving responsibilities, many women leave the workforce and forfeit years of income and Social Security credits to take care of their loved ones, which is a contributing factor of why women are twice as likely to live in poverty as they age than men.

It is important to remember that while fiscal discipline is needed, it should not come at the cost of hurting Social Security beneficiaries. We must keep the promise of Social Security for future retirees who are now paying into the system and expect to receive benefits when they retire; that is how Congress set up the program 75 years ago and why it should be strengthened, not cut, so that older women, and all Americans, can continue to have a stable source of income on which they can depend on in retirement.

In celebration of Social Security's 75th birthday, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) is blogging throughout the month about the importance of this program to an elder's ability to age in place. This is the third and final blog of the month-long series.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Learn How to be More Effective Advocates for Economic Security

What is economic security really? Are generations working together or at odds? Are we on the same page with American families?

Do Americans have any idea what we are talking about?

Have you ever found yourself thinking any or all of these thoughts? Organizations across the country work tirelessly on these issues day in and day out, but each has a different definition of economic need.

Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) is working to address this through national public opinion research on economic security to help guide advocacy, education and outreach efforts to promote economic security throughout one’s lifetime.

Is your organization advancing the needs of low-income Americans? Then apply to be an Economic Security Champion.

WOW is calling on organizations willing to embrace the framework of promoting economic security over a lifetime to become our Economic Security Champions. Champions are key partners in each city at one of our five regional meetings, as part of our Building Bridges to Economic Security Campaign, in September and October. The meetings will provide a forum for an array of organizations on the local and state levels concerned about the economic justice of all Americans to discuss their priorities, share strategies and build new alliances. The meetings are as follows:
  • Monday September 20, 2010 – Chicago, Illinois
    Economic Security Champion Application Deadline: August 23, 2010
  • Monday, September 27, 2010 – Los Angeles, California
    Economic Security Champion Application Deadline: August 30, 2010
  • Friday, October 1, 2010 – Denver, Colorado
    Economic Security Champion Application Deadline: September 3, 2010
  • Monday, October 4, 2010 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Economic Security Champion Application Deadline: September 3, 2010
  • Friday, October 8, 2010 – Atlanta, GeorgiaEconomic Security Champion Application Deadline: September 8, 2010
WOW encourages your organization to apply for the award and to spread the word to your networks.

If you have any questions, please contact Kelly Stellrecht at kstellrecht@wowonline.org. Registration details are forthcoming.

We look forward to seeing you at one of our regional meetings!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Social Security is NOT in Crisis. What the 2010 Trustees Report Says About It

Social Security is not in crisis and is not bankrupt. According to the annual report authored by the Board of Trustees for Social Security released last week, Social Security will have a surplus of $77 billion by the end of this year. Furthermore, annual surpluses are projected to continue until 2025. That’s the good news. The purpose of this report is to provide a “heads up” to policy makers on the solvency of Social Security. For some time now, the Trustees have stated that reform is needed to ensure full benefits are paid in the future.

After 2025, the Trustees project that the Social Security trust fund will begin to spend down over the span of 12 years and be completely spent by 2037. However, this does not mean that Social Security will be bankrupt because workers will still pay into the system. What this does mean is that if Congress does not act in the next 27 years to shore up additional Social Security revenue, beneficiaries will receive 78% of promised benefits. So, that’s the not -so -good news.

But reform options can be enacted to ensure that benefits remain solvent for future generations, such as raising the Social Security cap on who is taxed to 90% of wages as was done in 1977. Currently, 82% of wages are taxed for Social Security.

Wider Opportunites for Women (WOW) and other national and state organizations call on Congress to act now to strengthen Social Security and address Social Security’s solvency over the long-term. And we are not the only ones: Americans across the country and across party-lines value Social Security and want it to be there for them. According to a National Academy of Social Insurance/Rockefeller poll, 87% of Americans do not mind paying for Social Security because of the security and stability it provides to others.

In celebration of Social Security’s 75th birthday, Wider Opportuities for Women (WOW) created several materials for advocates, including a birthday card to send to Congress. Tell your Representative how important Social Security is to you and your family by mailing them a card.

Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) is blogging throughout the month about the importance of Social Security to an elder's ability to age in place. This is the second blog of the month-long series.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Don't be Fooled! Raising the Retirement Age is a Benefit Cut!

Yesterday, I attended a Hill briefing, hosted by the National Council of Women’s Organizations' (NCWO)  Older Women Economic Security Taskforce (OWES) on why raising the Social Security retirement age (again) is a bad idea. Proponents of this bad idea think it will encourage older workers to work longer and further the solvency of Social Security. The reality, however, is that raising the retirement age is a benefit cut for current and future retirees and negatively affects their ability to be economically secure. Furthermore, many older workers are not collecting benefits early because they want or choose to. In this economy older workers are being laid off and are unable to find jobs, and end up collecting benefits before full retirement age because they have to.

Here’s how raising the retirement age is a benefit cut as explained in the Raising the Social Security Age is Dangerous white paper, co-authored by Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW).

“If your benefit at age 66 is $1,000 a month but Congress raises the retirement age to 67, then you would have to wait one year to collect $1,000 a month. This means you would lose a year of collecting full benefits and lose again because instead of receiving $1,080 a month at age 67 your benefit would be just $1,000.”
The increased monthly payment of $1,080 is a result of the annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

WOW’s Elder Economic Security Standard Index (Elder Index) further shows that current average annual Social Security benefits are not enough to make ends meet. An elder renter needs $20,326 a year while the average Social Security benefit is just $12,526 for women and $16,572 for men. As costs for basic needs continue to rise, benefit cuts would hurt an elder’s ability to age in place with dignity.

Social Security should be strengthened, not cut. Instead of looking for ways to cut benefits, Congress should look for ways to shore up more funds for this critical program that so many depend on.

In celebration of Social Security's 75th birthday, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) is blogging throughout the month about the importance of this program to an elder's ability to age in place. This is the first blog of the month-long series.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

WOW Celebrates Medicare's 45th Birthday

Last week, in recognition of Medicare's 45th Birthday, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) released a press statement supporting the strengthening of Medicare through the Affordable Care Act. Stacy Sanders, Director of the Elder Economic Security Initiative, also blogged on the Huffington Post on the importance of Medicare to an elders' economic security in retirement.

Be sure to check them out and comment on the blog!