The U.S. Senate designated yesterday, May 15, 2018 as National Senior Fraud Awareness Day. They took this action to raise awareness about the increasing fraudulent activities directed at older adults. Protecting the rights and preventing abuse of older adults and people with disabilities is a key priority for us at ACL, and we are working with states to develop systems and programs that prevent abuse from happening, while also supporting individuals who have experienced abuse. With our partners at the National Center on Elder Abuse, we also are counting down the days until June 15, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, on which we unite with communities around the world to shine a light on this critical issue.
National Senior Fraud Awareness day also made us think about financial security as a whole, and inspired us to write this post about the importance of financial literacy, planning for retirement, and achieving economic empowerment and security.
ACL supports multiple initiatives dedicated to promoting financial security in the lives of older adults, people with disabilities, and families and caregivers in communities across the country. From programs to assist youth with disabilities to find employment, to supporting caregivers to balance work with assisting an aging loved one, ACL is committed to promoting the financial capability of everyone we serve.
I would like to highlight two programs that have made a particular difference for older adults: the Pension Counseling and Information Program; and the National Education and Resource Center on Women and Retirement.
There are approximately 700,000 private (and thousands of public) pension and retirement plans in the U.S. Given that an employee may have worked for several employers, and these employers may have merged, sold their plans, or gone bankrupt, it is difficult for the average person to know where to go to get help in finding out whether he or she is receiving all of their pension benefits. Without access to an earned pension, these Americans risk living in poverty during retirement—or being unable to retire at all. For many working Americans, a pension may be the only asset or savings.
ACL’s pension counseling projects provide hands-on assistance in pursuing claims and helping older adults to access pension plans lost as a result of mergers and acquisitions; answer questions about complex plan provisions; and make targeted referrals to other professionals for assistance. Since they were established in 1993, the projects have successfully recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in client benefits, a return of more than nine dollars for every federal dollar invested in the program.
Complementing the direct services and legal expertise of the Pension Counseling and Information Program, the National Resource and Education Center on Women and Retirement, operated by the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER), works to improve opportunities for women to secure retirement income through effective savings strategies. The program provides education, skills building, and retirement planning tools particularly to low-income women to enhance their financial security in retirement. For example, last year WISER provided training and distributed educational tools to women in rural West Virginia; American Indian women in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and child care providers in Charleston, West Virginia. They provide educational brochures, blog posts, and training materials that explain complex financial and retirement concepts such as 401K’s, employer-matched benefits, and compounded interest for maximum public understanding.
At ACL, we believe that every person should have the right to make choices and to control the decisions in and about their lives, and we know economic security can be a key factor in helping people live independently through programs like these, ACL helps make this possible for more people.