Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wake Up Washington: Older Women and Economic Security

Imagine living your whole life working just to pay the bills – not saving for your future, but simply paying for the present. You work as much as you can, but also decide to have a family and need to take time off work. Before you know it, you are 65 and it is time to retire. This would be an exciting time in your life, except you don’t have any savings. Thankfully, you have Social Security. You start receiving your benefits, but then you realize it’s not enough to get by. Now what do you do?

Some of you might not have to imagine this scenario; you’re living it or know someone who is. The fact is that women across the country who take time out of the workforce to raise children or care for an elder relative receive fewer wages in the long run and, therefore, less Social Security benefits in retirement. The sacrifices women make truly shape their retirement security. According to WOW’s Elder Index, the average Social Security benefit for women is $12,526 compared with $16,572 for men.

Wake Up Washington! Women are struggling to make ends meet in retirement and should not be penalized for taking care of their families. The Social Security Caregiver Credit Act (H.R. 769) is a step in the right direction. The Act would give full-time caregivers Social Security credits for up to five years out of the workforce. Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 1338) also is a step in the right direction to ensure women receive equal pay for equal work.

It’s time for action, let’s get to work and make sure that women get equal pay and, therefore, an equal retirement!

Alisha Howell
Communications & Program Coordinator
Elder Economic Security Initiative

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Celebrating our Grandparents

Last Monday, the White House held a briefing in honor of Grandparents Day. Members of the Administration discussed the status of programs, policies and services that help grandparents and seniors age in place with dignity, including provisions under the Affordable Care Act and the Senior Community Services Employment Program (SCSEP). Administration officials stressed the need of dissemination information about these programs to counter public misinformation. Read the President’s official proclamation.

Grandparents are an important part of our lives and an important part of society. It is great to see the Administration’s recognition of our elders and WOW continues to advocate on behalf of all elders particularly through our recommendation for the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA), including the establishment of an economic security framework in the legislation. If you have ideas on how the OAA can be improved, please send them our way.

Do you or your grandparents have a story to share about making ends meet? If so, WOW encourages you to share your personal stories with us and Retirement USA – a coalition advocating for a secure and adequate retirement system to make it possible for more grandparents and seniors to be economically secure in retirement. Retirement USA’s “Wake Up Washington” month-long campaign continues until October 15th. Email WOW at to share your story!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Anti-poverty programs help bridge the gap to economic security

The economic downturn continues to have lasting effects on millions of Americans. According to an article in USA Today, anti-poverty programs now serve one in six Americans. These programs include Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, previously known as Food Stamps), Unemployment Insurance (UI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and others.

For elders on a fixed income, anti-poverty programs are critical in building economic security. According to the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index), a measure of income adequacy for elders age 65, the gap from the average Social Security payment and what is needed for economic security is about $6,000 per year for a single elder renter. Although Social Security payments were never meant to serve as the sole source of income for older Americans, over 30% depend on Social Security for more than 90% or more of their income.

Anti-poverty programs vary in every state, but as an example, we can look at an elder with a very low fixed income in San Juan County, New Mexico – the latest state to join the Elder Economic Security Initiative. By examing each program’s impact, we demonstrate how programs help to close the income gap, with housing assistance providing the largest benefit.

(click on the chart to view it as a larger image)

It is critical to conduct outreach to elders so they are aware of income support programs that can help them make ends meet and meet the goal of economic security.