We earn less, and live longer. So how can women prepare ourselves for retirement?
Here are some of my favorite local resources and online websites/blogs for women, using classes, self-help stations, nonprofit groups, web sites, and a Wharton professor.
First, local classes. Retirement Income Solutions for Women is a multi-week course for those age 45 or older who are concerned they won't have enough dough for retirement. Cost for the series runs about $60, which includes classes, a consultation with an accountant, and phone-coaching sessions.
The Women's Opportunities Resource Center and the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants host the workshops. Women in the classes discuss transitioning from work to retirement, and identify retirement income gaps and how to supplement through part-time employment and maximizing Social Security and Medicare. To sign up, contact WORC at www.worc-pa.com or by calling 215-564-5500.
Clarifi, a nonprofit credit and personal-finance counseling agency in Center City with branches in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey, hosts seminars on preparing for retirement and a workshop called "Navigating Social Security," primarily for those planning to retire within 10 years. You learn the basics of the system, including its eligibility requirements and strategies for getting the most out of it. Contact Clarifi to sign up for the classes, at www.clarifi.org or by calling 215-563-5665.
Another option is to enroll in an investing class at a local college or join an investment club. For instance, BetterInvesting offers classes in a broad range of subjects, including basic investing topics.
One local chapter, the Philadelphia Area Model Investment Club, meets the second Saturday of each month and welcomes visitors at no cost. Meetings are held in Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library, 1001 Powell St., Norristown 19401, (the next one is Saturday, Feb. 10) . To learn more, call the club at 215-796-1214 or visit the website: BetterInvesting.org and look for your local chapter in Pennsylvania or New Jersey.
Now, to our favorite blogs and websites. One is Boston College's Center for Retirement Research, and its main blogger, Kimberly Blanton, who writes for "Squared Away."
Sure, everyone needs to save for retirement these days, she explains.
"But men and women definitely have many different considerations to consider, for myriad reasons – lower earnings, less time in the labor force, better or worse marriage situations, or no marriage, different Social Security considerations such as whether they will take their own Social Security benefit or their husband's spousal benefit."
Or visit your local Social Security Administration office in person and use one of the "self-help" computer stations, where an SSA employee can assist. Someone at that office can help you through the whole application. There are 16 of these "self-help" computer stations in the Philadelphia region, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, but you'll need an appointment. You can schedule, reschedule, or cancel appointments by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by contacting your local agency office.
Retirement calculators – annoying, but some are less so. We liked the one at Boston College's Center for Retirement Research: http://crr.bc.edu/special-projects/interactive-tools/target-your-retirement/.
Other blogs we like: NextAvenue.org, which writes frequently about women and retirement, and WISERWomen.org, the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement. WISER's retirement income worksheet, Get Your Ducks in a Row, will help organize each of your sources of retirement income, so there is no guesswork as to how much retirement income you receive each month. It offers an easy-to-use tool that considers all of your benefits, such as Social Security and employer pensions, as well as contributions from part-time work. The worksheet also distinguishes which sources keep up with inflation, and which will not.
We also asked Wharton professor Olivia Mitchell for some of her favorite resources:
"I can recommend our site (www.pensionresearchcouncil.org) with lots of free books and working papers available to download. Knowledge@Wharton has a useful newsletter that often highlights women and financial literacy at http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/women-financial-literacy.
And K@W high school has 400 lesson plans for high school teachers or students to download for free: http://kwhs.wharton.upenn.edu/lesson-plans/," she said by e-mail.