Helping Women Take Financial Control of Retirement

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Making plans for retirement is easy: vacations to Europe or tropical islands, more family time, maybe a trip to Disney World, etc. Planning how to take those vacations and still have money to support yourself? Not so easy.

Making plans for retirement is easy: vacations to Europe or tropical islands, more family time, maybe a trip to Disney World, etc. Planning how to take those vacations and still have money to support yourself? Not so easy.
And Lynne Cutler wants to make sure women in particular are able to take control of their finances.
She founded Women’s Opportunities Resource Center (WORC) in 1993, which aims to help women become self-sufficient through three main areas: entrepreneurial training, microlending and an incentive savings program, where people “save and get matched and the money can go to business education or a home.”
“We’re trying to promote social and economic self-sufficiency for women and their families,” she said.
One new program WORC launched is Retirement Income Solutions (RIS) for Women, a four-week course followed by six months of coaching in partnership with Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA), Jewish Employment and Vocational Services (JEVS) and SCORE Philadelphia.
The course starts at 6 p.m. on May 2 and meets for four consecutive weeks at the Gershman Y, as well as at KleinLife in Northeast Philadelphia. It’s geared toward women 48 and older with assets up to $250,000, excluding a car or a home.
The program was funded by a grant from Women of Vision (WOV) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
“Women of Vision basically want to create a better world for women and girls,” said WOV grants co-chair Marcy Bacine. “Many of us who are of retirement age ourselves, the belief is that we had the opportunity to create a good life for us. We wanted to have the opportunity to help other women have an easier retirement knowing that for many people, retirement is very difficult and economically tricky and we wanted to help alleviate some of the social inequities.”
The first RIS session was held with success in October and November. It covered such topics  as “Social Security 101,” identifying income gaps and savings and investments — all of which will be discussed during the second session.
“What RIS is trying to do,” Cutler explained, “is  to have women assess how much money they’re going to have and how much they’re going need, what they have and what that gap is and really get a hold of that because so many women don’t know — Social Security, for example, if they take it too early or they happened to have been married and divorced, which Social Security they should take, when they should take it.”
Depending on whether they take out Social Security too early, they could lose up to 8 percent a year of what they could be getting, she continued.
“What you want is the women to really get a hold of it and get a plan and think about their future and think about what they want to do,” Cutler said.
“There’s a fallacy that things are going to cost a lot less when you retire,” she said. “Well, you still have rent to cover and all your expenses. You might have more discretionary time, but you’re going to need money to do those things you want to do. It’s trying to put that whole puzzle together.”
She encourages women to participate because it will give them security and help them plan their future in a realistic way. Accountants will be on hand to help determine “what you have in terms of money, how long you think you’re going to live, how much you think you’re going to need.”
“It’s so very important that they take stock of their financial situation,” Cutler said. “Social Security is only going to cover somewhere between 30 to 40 percent max, so they have to be able to supplement their income. Otherwise, you’re going to be poor. It could be someone who has been diligent and has saved, but there’s still a gap, so it’s better you know what it is so you can figure out how to address it.”
The gap, in particular, comes from the differences in earnings between men and women. It becomes particularly noticeable when looking at Social Security.
“Approximately 76 percent in 2012 of full-time working women aged 75 plus — they earned 76 percent of men’s earnings, and they got only 78 percent of what men tend to collect,” Cutler said. “It has to do with the earnings over your lifetime, how long you’ve worked and what your salary was. Because  [women] made less over the years generally and may have been in and out of the workforce, their Social Security is going to be less.”
Another factor is that studies have shown that women live 10 percent longer than men. That, too, makes a difference, Cutler said.
The program helps women take hold of their financial future in terms of how long they have worked and whether they will need to supplement their incomes with what Cutler called “encore careers.” Those could be part-time jobs that fit with the women’s passions or starting a small business.
“What’s so wonderful is they come up with this realistic picture of how much they’re going to have and when their money might run out, if they have any money saved or how much that Social Security is going to be,” she said, “so they can really take and set up an action plan to address it.”
Rochelle Massarella is RIS’ program trainer and coordinator, as well as one of the coaches who works with the women to implement the plans they come up with during the courses.
She put the program together, bringing in the partners from PICPA, AARP, SCORE, JEVS, and the guest speakers. With her own extensive career in human resources, she has knowledge about pension plans and other factors that come into play with retirement and understanding how much money one would have when she retires.
She emphasized how big a lesson Social Security is for the women in the program.
“From 62 to 66 years old, you get 6 percent, if you wait until 70 years old, you get 8 percent more,” she said. “These are very important things that people learn.”
She calls the women once a month for six months to check in on how they’re doing and continue to implement and adjust their plans. She commends the women, she said, because they come to these sessions while they are busy and still working full time and taking care of their families.
Their mission is to serve women and help them become self-sufficient, Massarella added.
“We want to empower women to have more financial literacy, to feel more comfortable about investing and more comfortable about their money and realize that they can retire and to be smart about it,” she said.
The program costs $60, plus coaching. To apply, visit www.worc-pa.org or call 215-564-5500. 
Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0740

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