Friday, October 29, 2010

The [Caregiver’s] Gender Gap

The wage disparity between men and women continues to affect the economic security of working women. Another gender gap, however, is the caregiver gap. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 59-75% of caregivers are women. The caregiver gap contributes to lower earning potential, disproportionately affecting women, because many have to take time off work or digress from full-time work to part-time to make time for caregiving. This trend is then reflected in retirement through lower Social Security benefits and fewer retirement savings.

The Alzheimer’s Association conducted a “Women and Alzheimer’s” poll as part of its A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s report and found that among workers who care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, 21% of female caregivers and 18% of male caregivers had to take time off from work. In addition, 14% of female caregivers and 11% of male caregivers went from full-time to part-time work and 10% of female caregivers and 3% of male caregivers retired early because of their responsibilities. These caregiving decisions affect a caregiver’s lifelong economic security.

The poll also found that a majority (64%) of workers who care for someone with Alzheimer’s needed to arrive to work late, leave early or take time in the day from work. However, men were more likely than women (70% vs. 61%) to go in to work late or leave early because men are more likely to be in fields with more flexible schedules, or are more likely to ask for flexibility.

It is essential to advocate for job flexibility and expand workplace protections to assist caregivers and families. For those caregivers who decide to take time off from work, the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act (H.R. 769) can help by implementing a formula to credit caregiving for up to five years so that individuals are not penalized for leaving the workforce by a reduction in Social Security benefits. Another part of the solution is expanding the Child Care Tax credit to include a Caregiver Tax Credit that will assist caregivers in building economic security for themselves and their families.

Supporting the needs of caregivers is essential to promoting elder economic security; there cannot be one without the other.

Kelly Stellrecht
Field and Program Associate
Elder Economic Security Initiative

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bringing the Initiative to Washington State!

I recently returned from the Seattle area where I met many dedicated advocates working to help elders achieve economic security across the state. Their work is important as more than one in five seniors in Washington state relies on Social Security as their only source of income, amounting to an average income of $12,978/year for women and $17,313/year for men. Additionally, 8.4% of elders are living below the federal poverty level of $10,830 a year for an individual. To address the needs of this population, the advocates I met are gearing up to launch the Elder Economic Security Initiative (Initiative) in Washington.

The Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging (W4A), who is our lead partner in the state, hosted a meeting for their partners to discuss the Initiative and how it will increase their capacity to advocate for seniors. The event provided a great opportunity to introduce the framework and tools behind the Initiative, including the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index), and began preliminary discussions on policy priorities to promote elder economic security in Washington. Also at the meeting, the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston presented draft Elder Index data to the W4A and its stakeholders showing what it really costs to retire in three counties in the state.

Despite facing state budget cuts that are sure to affect services for elders in Washington, the Initiative is brimming with ideas of how to educate the public and push for public policies that help seniors achieve economic security. Over the next few months, they will develop a robust policy agenda to accompany the Elder Index for Washington.

Find out more about the Washington Initiative and get involved if you live in the state!

Maggie Flowers
Field Manager
Elder Economic Security Initiative @ WOW

Friday, October 22, 2010

WOW Releases New Measure of Economic Security

Last week, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) released its newest measure of economic security, the Basic Economic Security Tables for the DC Metro Area (DC BEST) . WOW is pleased to have been featured in multiple media outlets over the past week, including the Sunday edition of the Washington Post.

The DC BEST calculates the monthly income a family needs to be economically secure. Provided in the full report are data for over 400 family types, distinguishing between two-parent and one-parent households and ages of children. The full report also found that about half of DC residents have not attained economic security.

Building on WOW’s Self-Sufficiency Standard and Elder Index, the DC BEST includes a savings component for emergency and retirement savings, showing families what it takes to save for the future. The data also shows Fairfax County as the most expensive place to live in the DC area, costing a family of four (two parents, one preschool-age child and one school-age child) over $100,000 a year to make ends meet.

Working will allied partners, WOW will use the DC BEST to advocate for those in the District and beyond. Accompanying the data is a policy brief outlining WOW’s recommendations to the incoming administration for building economic security for all DC residents. We will use the data to advocate for a number of issues, including the creation of good jobs, increased childcare assistance and financial literacy education about saving for emergencies and retirement.

We encourage you to view the full report, which includes data for DC and its surrounding jurisdictions including Alexandria City, Arlington County, Fairfax County, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County and executive summary of the policy brief for more information .You can also contact WOW’s DC Family Economic Security Program Team: Sara Bocinski ( and Delese Harvey (

Alisha Howell
Communications & Program Coordinator
Elder Economic Security Initiative

Friday, October 15, 2010

Senators Put White House on Notice: Cuts to Social Security Won’t Work

Last week, eleven senators drafted a resolution in opposition to privatizing Social Security and raising the retirement age. It baffles me that just eleven senators signed on to this resolution considering Social Security’s role in building economic security for not only seniors, but children, widows and people with disabilities. Perhaps other senators are unaware that Social Security is 90% or more of the income in retirement for 3 in 10 seniors and that without it more than half would live below the federal poverty level.

Furthermore, at a Senate hearing on why the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform should not look at Social Security to solve the nation’s federal deficit, Sen. Sanders (I-VT), who signed the resolution, acknowledged that Social Security has not contributed to the deficit. So, why would the Commission look to it to solve the deficit problem? Perhaps because it is currently running a huge surplus; but let’s remember this surplus is allocated to the people and families who have paid into the program and is not to be used to close the government’s deficit.

WOW just wrapped up five day-long regional meetings across the country as part of our Building Bridges to Economic Security Campaign. We met with over 130 organizations, many of which participated in our policy sessions on Social Security. Whether we were in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, or in between, one theme resonated across the country: Social Security must be strengthened for future generations. We already know from WOW’s Elder Index that living on Social Security alone is not enough to meet a senior’s basic needs – so benefit cuts would only exacerbate this issue.

WOW applauds the senators who support this resolution because each recognizes that strengthening Social Security is not about making older workers stay in the workforce to make ends meet or assigning workers private savings accounts that can waiver in a volatile stock market. Strengthening Social Security is about keeping the promise to our current and future retirees that Social Security will be there for them as a dependable source of income in retirement.

Alisha Howell
Communications & Program Coordinator
Elder Economic Security Initiative