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WHY RETIRED WOMEN LIVE IN POVERTY

What if I told you that retired women are almost twice as likely to live in poverty compared to men. The reasons for this begin with different genes that set men and women on different life paths. Women are often the caretakers for their children and their parents. This experience can dramatically enrich the lives of those cared for. But, both of these situations mean less employment, less savings, and less social security. “On average, women work 12 years less than men do over the course of their careers.(1)” The above chart reveals the financial result for 2012.

We are all aware of the historical gender wage gap for the same position. This gap is estimated to be anywhere from 76 to 80 cents of what a man earns. This difference may be slowly closing, but equality still looks a couple of generations away. So, thats not going to help us right now.

CNN Money(1) reports that, “Female workers make up about two-thirds of all part-time employees.” The problem with this is that health insurance and others benefits don’t kick in for part-timers. Working part-time also means less goes into your savings and for social security benefits.

Medical expenses for women are expected to higher throughout each life stage. The bottom line from many studies is that, for various reasons, women just need to see the doctor more often which ends up costing more. This is partly because women have different needs and partly because of being more alert and concerned about resolving medical issues than men.

The lifestyle needs for women are more complicated and expensive than for men. Women spend more on hygienic and cosmetic items that men don’t need or want. Men can get away with letting their appearance slip, but that doesn’t work for most women. A decent appearance is important whether you are retired or not.

I also believe that your relationship with money becomes a factor. Women do not put finance and investing at the forefront of their lives since they view other things as more important. Women also tend to not talk to other women about the pursuit or accumulation of money. So, as women focus on areas of their life they feel are more enjoyable, like family and friends, investing often takes a back seat.

So, the factors working against many women are less lifetime employment, the gender wage gap, part-time work, medical needs, lifestyle expense, and a tentative relationship with money. As a result of the above and probably other factors, women are almost twice as likely to reside in poverty in retirement. In my next article, I’ll discuss what to do about it: http://blog.creativeretirementforwomen.com/how-to-spend-less/.        Lee Johnson    

(1)Hicken, M. “Why many retired women live in poverty” 5-13-14. CNN Money. Retrieved on 6-3-15 from http://money.cnn.com/2014/05/13/retirement/retirement-women/?iid=EL

Common Regrets When Dying

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Top10 Regrets When Dying

1.  I never pursued my dreams and aspirations.
2.  I worked too much and never made time for my family.
3.  I should have made more time for my friends.
4.  I should have said, “I love you’ a lot more”.
5.  I should have spoken my mind instead of holding back and resenting things.
6.  I should have been the bigger person and resolved my problems.
7.  I wish I had children.
8.  I should have saved more money for my retirement.
9.  Not having the courage to live truthfully.

10. Happiness is a Choice, I wish I knew that earlier.

It’s interesting that 9 out of the 10 regrets are personal and social. Only number eight involves money or accumulation of external items. Since no one wants any regrets, this gives us an excellent opportunity to do a little self assessment. We can now anticipate and correct our behaviors to ensure we don’t feel regret in these or any other areas. We know that whatever we may regret now can be reversed. So, never wait to pursue your dreams or develop a deeper bond with important people in your lives.  L. J.   www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

GOING BANANAS

Most of us don’t think of bananas as a health food, but the many benefits may change your mind. Did you know that bananas will protect against stroke and heart attacks, elevate your mood, relieve PMS symptoms, ease ulcers and heartburn, reduce cramps, increase alertness, and even help prevent some cancers.

In the article “25 Powerful reasons to Eat Bananas(1),” the authors outline the many health benefits.

1. Bananas improve your mood due to tryptophan that is converted to serotonin.
2. It builds strong bones as calcium loss is mitigated.
3. It lowers blood pressure and chances of heart attack and stroke due to the high potassium and low salt content.
4. Sustains blood sugar and add energy before a workout.
5. It prevent cramping in workouts and at night.
6. Improve anemia and blood with the iron content in bananas.
7. Reduce PMS symptoms with stress reducing effect.
8. High vitamin B-6 levels protect against diabetes, weight gain, a weakened nervous system.

9. Digestion is aided and toxins are removed from the body due to pectin.
10. Growth of good bacterial in the bowels act as a prebiotic.
11. The fiber content relieves constipation.
12. Electrolytes after diarrhea are replaced.
13. Reduce heartburn and acid reflux from this natural antacid.
14. Relieve stomach ulcers by coating the lining of the stomach.
15. Calcium leads to strong bones and eyes while reducing kidney cancer.
16. Potassium creates alertness and makes you smarter.

17. Bananas antioxidant level is high, good against chronic disease.
18. It reduces nausea and morning sickness.
19. It relieves itching from hives or bug bites when rubbed on skin
20. Control your blood sugar by eating bananas between meals.
21. It can reduce your fever by lowering body temperature.
22. Tryptophan helps ease Seasonal Affective Disorder.
23. B vitamins and potassium reduce withdrawal symptoms.
24. Tape a banana peel on you warts to remove them.
25. Shine you leather shoes with the peel.

This is the most persuading list of reasons to eat bananas I’ve seen. How to mix them into your daily diet is open for creativity. A mixed fruit salad served over greek yogurt has always been one of my favorites. But, I have used bananas to calm my acid stomach for many years because I prefer the natural remedies. I hope you can now view bananas in a new nutritional light and will include more of them in your routine diet. Send me your favorite banana recipes.  L. J. More: www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)Food Matters Staff(8-14-12) “25 Powerful Reasons to Eat Bananas” Retrieved on 5-21-15 from: http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/25-powerful-reasons-to-eat-bananas

In Denial About Money?

Could you be in denial about money? An article by the APA(1) has identified the warning signs if you are. They begin with the concept that, “money is stressful.” This was the result of an annual survey asking people their top source of stress. Of course, it’s natural to try to avoid stress especially if it’s painful in some way. That’s where we get into trouble because avoiding financial issues only tends to worsen them.

Here are the warning signs they mention:

a. You try to put money and finances out of your mind

b. You avoid talking about money

c. You avoid opening bank or credit card statements

d. You don’t know what your credit score is

e. You don’t know your net worth.

We all have these behaviors to some extent and some of them keep changing like d and e. But, as anything in psychology, it’s the degree or severity of these behaviors that make it significant. I’m a psychotherapist and prior stockbroker, so I understand that your relationship with money is often a result of past experiences and future expectations.

When I say relationship with money, I mean your individual perception of its importance and what emotions come with that perception. For example, many people who lost money in the crash of 1929, never invested in the stock market the rest of their lives. This past experience created anxiety and distrust of the markets and clouded their future expectations. This generation had a distrustful relationship with money as a result of being traumatized with sudden and unpredictable losses. The emotional memory of this trauma was never forgotten.

Women also have a different relationship with money. Women don’t view money as an end result, but as a means to get somewhere. Women also do not discuss finance and business in their personal relationships as much as men. Thats because their priorities are different. However, that is different than consciously avoiding talking about money which is a form of denial.

If you feel the warning signs pertain to you, they recommend a few steps like keeping track of your income and spending or make a budget. Establish a spending plan of your priorities. Set up automatic saving like a 401k or IRA. Use software programs to assist you with the above.

Of course, everyone should have a budget with priorities and it’s easy to find a template on the internet if you are just getting started. Automatic savings are set up at your work. They do not suggest any specific software. In addition, I would certainly add, 1. Get more financial education-read and take classes. 2. Consult a financial pro before investing 3. Consider using cash vis-a-vis credit cards to reduce spending. 4. Understand your personal relationship with money especially your past traumas and risk tolerance 5. Join an investment club or start one of your own 6. Consider downsizing your lifestyle 7. Consider occupational re-training to increase your income. 8. Assess you social security to determined future income 9. Be willing to work into retirement if necessary. In other words, make learning about money and investing an essential and fun priority. L. Johnson

AmericanPsychological Assoc., Feb 2015. ‘Face the numbers: Moving beyond financial denial.’ Retrieved on 4-22-2015 from: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/financial-avoidance.aspx

HOW TO EAT LESS

HOW TO EAT LESS

How to eat less is easier than you may think. When I taught a class in the psychology of eating for the weight reduction program, we made a few easy adjustments that actually worked to change habits. Changing habits can occur when new behaviors are practiced and supported. Here are a few of the important principles to follow:

1. STRESS MANAGEMENT: We all need a stress reduction list of replacement behaviors to follow. Rather than eat when stressed, we will: 1. Take a walk; 2. Call a friend; 3. Meditate; 4. Go dancing or whatever you put on your list. What has worked best is to practice your replacement behavior as soon as you get home from work every day. You reduce your stress before it builds while creating a healthy habit.

2. CONTROL YOUR TRIGGERS: When we see or smell food, it causes or triggers a biochemical change in our brain of increased gherkin, a hormone that causes hunger. Stores place impulse items near the check out area counting on this effect. Start out making a list of the things that trigger hunger in you. The common ones are TV and magazine food ads, shopping when hungry, eating out, and talking about food. I like to mute and look away from TV ads, eat before I shop, eat out less, and avoid concession stands.

3. SOCIAL SUPPORT: The more people you involve in you diet plan, the more likely it is to work. In the diet clinic, we would always pair people so they could exercise, dine, and socialize together. When one didn’t feel like taking a walk, their partner would call with encouragement. Husbands sometime feel threatened when their wife loses weight and looks better. So, they need to be a support too.

4. SLOW DOWN: I guess we are all in a rush because Americans eat very fast. The food goes down so fast, it doesn’t register with your brain. So, we keep eating until we are stuffed. One preventative technique we use is to count your chews and take smaller bites. If that’s too boring, just put your fork down between bites.

5. NO TELEVISION: TV distracts us from paying attention to our intake. The main behavior that’s correlated with being obese is TV watching while snacking. I wish I could find the source. It’s easy to just dine at the table especially if others are eating. I’m single, but I still eat at the table with a book or relaxing music. It’s an enjoyable period of calmness in a hectic day.

There are more principles, but these should be enough to get you started that fall under the category of easy to do. Once you get used to these replacement behaviors, you do them without thinking. So, go ahead and make your list, get people involved, and have fun with your new lifestyle.    More at: www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

Obama and Retirement Accounts

Obama and Retirement Accounts

President Obama wants to protect retirement accounts from hidden fees and broker conflict of interest(1). His focus is on expensive retirement investments that result in high commissions for brokers, but low return for investors. He wants brokers to be held to a high “fiduciary standard” by placing their client’s needs before their own.

As a former stockbroker, I can confirm that a conflict of interest does exist. When brokers are paid with commissions, there is a natural tendency to try to maximize one’s income. Sometimes brokers are instructed to sell proprietary or higher commission products. A prior solution to this was to use a fee based adviser rather than commission based broker. However, this can be a one to two percent fee that can reduce your return as well.

The intent is not to ban commissions, but to regulate them along with broker advice. There is an ethical obligation to match the investor with the appropriate investment, but this is not always done. New regulation is opposed by most brokerages firms since they stand to lose revenue.

Republicans are opposed to any further regulation to “preserve options for Americans to obtain financial advice”. That sounds good, but some options are just not good for the investor. So, Republicans take their typical stance of opposing anything Democrat rather than coming up with a better proposal.

Wall street demands clarity from the firms they invest in, but they are not quite willing to provide that to their clients. The many baby boomers retiring will demand clarity from their advisers or they will go elsewhere. As the number of retired folks increases, so does their voting power. Politicians need to understand the importance of safety and sustainability of retirement investments. This is absolutely vital to the retired and they will fight for it.   L.J.
1. Mason, J., Lynch, S.N.(2-23-2015)”Update 3-Obama takes aim at brokers’ fees on U.S. retirement accounts” Reuters. Retrieved on 2-25-2015 from:http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/23/usa-fiduciary-idUSL1N0VX01820150223

Republicans Want to Cut Social Security

REPUBLICANS WANT TO CUT SOCIAL SECURITY

I previously reported that Rep. Ryan(R-Wis) said that we are not prepared for thenumber of baby boomers retiring. He labeled it as a debt crisis. See: http://blog.creativeretirementforwomen.com/?s=ryan On 2-7-15 Sen. Sanders(I-Ver) (photo) appeared on Up with Steve Kornacki. He said, “The Republicans are preparing to cut disability benefits and /or social security in general. That is a widely unpopular idea.” It’s not only unpopular, it can be devastating.

First of all, my political orientation is neutral. My concern is with the actual program at risk rather than the person or the party. What stuck me in watching the Sen. Sanders interview is that the threat of social security reform has not reached the people. If we knew how badly this could go, we would certainly want to do something about it.

In my attempt to answer the question as to why no one is responding. I ran across an article, Republicans Demand Social Security And Medicare Cuts, Is It Reported?(1) The article claims that people don’t actually know the terms “long-term reforms” and “entitlement spending” really means cutbacks to Social Security and Medicare. The article states that, “Ryan and the republicans understand this. This is why they talk about ‘reforming’ something that is not clearly understood as Social Security and Medicare.”

We are not responding yet because this change is not widely reported in the media nor is it well advertised by its proponents. Since, it is not well articulated, it may take a back seat to other headline issues during the presidential campaign as well. After paying into it all our working lives, we certainly don’t want a reduced return. For the retirees that rely on these programs exclusively, what will happen to them? So, as retirees or soon to be retirees, we cannot let this most essential program get buried in political jargon and grandstanding.

What can we do about this threat? Sen. Sanders made a suggestion in his interview: “If we can mobilize the American people to say we’re not going to cut Social Security, we can win that battle.” Mobilize means to take a stand and make our voices heard. It means to write or email to those in office to express our horror and outrage. It means to vote for those who will support our best interests. It means to take to the streets to protest for whats right. Whatever method you choose, we must now be united and determined to secure our retirement that we worked so hard for.  More at: http://www.creaitveretirementforwomen.com

(1)Johnson, D. (10-24-13)”Republicans Demand Social Security and Medicare Cuts, Is It Reported? from ourfuture.org. Retrieved on 2-7-15 from: http://ourfuture.org/20131024/republicans-demand-social-security-and-medicare-cuts-is-it-reported?gclid=CKqyio-b0MMCFYqDfgod-hYAUA                                                                                                                                        (2) AP photo/Rich Pedroncelli