This is a wonderful time of year to wander the streets of the nation’s capital, taking in the holiday sights, a few of which I’m sharing here as part of OWL’s season’s greetings. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I am still moved by this city’s overwhelming sense of history.
It’s disheartening that too many people associate Washington D.C. with nothing but discord and dysfunction. While it’s true that we have no shortage of either, the city is much more than that. We need only to consider our past to be reminded of the many times we’ve worked through our differences.
So OWL’s hope is that we all can greet the coming year with open minds and a willingness to talk with people instead of at them. Together, imagine all the good we can do.
Warmest holiday wishes from the OWL National Team!
The podcast (story starts at 6:20) highlights the finding from the Kauffman Foundation’s latest report—featured in the latest OWL Observer—that “accelerating female entrepreneurship could have the same positive effect on the U.S. economy that the large-scale entry of women into the labor force had during the 20th century.”
The report, based on a survey of nearly 350 female tech start-up leaders, investigated what contributes to the low percentage of women running high-growth firms. Among the challenges women cited: a tougher time raising capital.
The podcast quotes from the Observer article that “Women’s access to capital, particularly venture capital, is central to OWL’s latest campaign, Our Women Mean Business. Kicking off in 2015, the initiative will educate investors, promote key resources critical to women starting or expanding their own businesses, and highlight leaders in the field.”
Guest post from Mitchell Clark and Stacy Sanders, Medicare Rights Center
It is often reported that 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare every day. What is less well known, and often times misunderstood, are the rules concerning how to enroll in Medicare. While most people who become eligible for Medicare are automatically enrolled, others have to make a proactive choice to enroll in one or multiple parts of the program.
A recent analysis of call data from the Medicare Rights Center’s national helpline found that many older adults struggle to understand Medicare enrollment periods, coordination of benefits rules and the penalties associated with delayed enrollment. In 2013, Medicare Rights fielded more than 15,000 questions on its helpline, and the second most common call concerned enrollment (22 percent).
At age 65, retirees already collecting Social Security retirement benefits are automatically enrolled in Part A and Part B. The same is true for individuals ages 64 and younger who are collecting Social Security disability benefits following a 24-month waiting period. For those not collecting Social Security benefits, it is necessary to actively enroll in Medicare, taking into consideration specific enrollment periods and existing coverage. If this transition is mismanaged, individuals new to Medicare may face a lifetime of late enrollment penalties, higher health care costs, gaps in coverage and disruptions in care continuity.
Take Mr. R, for example. At 55 he retired from his job and his former employer provided him with retiree medical coverage. He did not start receiving Social Security retirement benefits when he turned 65 and became eligible for Medicare; therefore, he had to actively enroll in Medicare during his Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) when he turned 65. During his IEP, he enrolled in Medicare Part A, but declined Part B because he believed he would have adequate medical insurance under his retiree plan. What he did not know was that when he turned 65 and became eligible for Medicare, his retiree coverage became secondary to Medicare. While current employer-sponsored health insurance can act as primary or secondary to Medicare, retiree insurance always pays secondary to Medicare.
When Mr. R became eligible for Medicare, his retiree plan stopped paying primary for outpatient services, essentially operating as though he had no insurance at all. During this time, he incurred at least $10,000 in medical expenses from two different health incidents. Only after these medical bills for unpaid expenses and denials from his retiree insurance started arriving did he realize that something was wrong. But he was in a bind. Having missed his IEP, he had to wait for the General Enrollment Period (GEP) to enroll in Part B. The GEP lasts from January through March of each year, with coverage beginning July 1st of the year a person enrolls. In the end, Mr. R enrolled in Part B during the 2014 GEP—more than a year after he first became eligible for Part B—with his coverage taking effect in July, seven months later.
Fixing the Fragmented Medicare Enrollment System
To ease the transition to Medicare, Medicare Rights’ analysis urges Congress, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and the Social Security Administration to prioritize key policy changes, including:
• Enhancing notification and education for people new-to-Medicare.
• Reforming the Medicare enrollment periods.
• Strengthening avenues for relief, giving greater opportunity for retroactive enrollment and the elimination of premium penalties.
• Conducting more research on how many people are affected by Medicare enrollment challenges and how many will be potentially affected in the future.
As the questions to the Medicare Rights Center’s helpline demonstrate, despite the diversity of circumstances among newly eligible Medicare beneficiaries, the transition traps they fall into are very much the same. These include difficulties understanding how Medicare coordinates with other types of insurance, navigating enrollment periods, and affording lifetime premium penalties. Much can be, and should be, accomplished to ensure seamless Medicare transitions and secure the health and financial stability of today’s and future generations of retirees and people with disabilities.
“I’m surprised the Nov. 2 Business article detailing how readers would fix Social Security didn’t include information from the recent in-depth survey by the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI). That report, which The Post did mention upon its release [“GOP pivots on Social Security,” news, Oct. 25], found that large majorities of Republicans and Democrats agree on ways to strengthen Social Security — without reducing benefits or raising the retirement age.
The support The Post found among readers for raising the earnings cap was even stronger in the NASI survey, with 70 percent of Republicans and 92 percent of Democrats agreeing that top wage earners could pay more.
People don’t want to ignore what they are constantly being told is a looming crisis, but when they learn about the range of options available, that alarm drops considerably. The only way we are going to have a fact-based discussion on Social Security is by presenting the facts. So cheers to The Post for including the fact that if wages had continued to rise as predicted in 1983, Social Security would be in much better shape — and more earnings would be subject to Social Security taxes. But jeers for telling only part of the story.”
Read the letter online.
• Did you know that half of the projected Social Security shortfall has been caused by lousy wage growth?
• That if our wages had kept pace with the projections made in 1983, the earnings cap for Social Security taxes would be about 27 percent higher than it is?
• Or that the baby boomers didn’t sneak up on us?
One of the most ignored factors in the predicted 2033 Social Security shortfall has been slow and unequal wage gains.
As far back as 1983, analysts could foresee that the baby boomer’s retirement would mean fewer workers paying taxes compared to retirees receiving benefits. Despite what many alarmists imply, we saw the boomers coming. After all, the last ones were born in 1964.
What the experts couldn’t predict was the significant slowdown in the average wage index. That’s the index used to adjust the cap on Social Security earnings.
They anticipated that wages would continue to rise, since in the five years leading up to 1983, the average annual wage increase was 8.3 percent. In the five years leading up to 2014? A mere 1.7 percent. Rising wages means a rising cap, which means more money in the Trust Fund.
Raising the cap is also one of the most popular options for ensuring a strong Social Security Trust Fund; the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI)’s recent survey found that 71 percent of Republicans and 92 percent of Democrats agree top earners could pay more. Right now Social Security taxes are only paid on the first $117,000 of income.
Women need to pay particular attention to Social Security. As the Institute for Women’s Policy Research points out, the program is a mainstay for women. Women are more likely to rely on Social Security because they have fewer alternative sources of income, they often outlive their husbands, and they’re more likely to be left to raise their children when their husbands die or become disabled.
So as the debate over ‘how to save’ Social Security heats back up, let’s keep reminding our policymakers that the boomers didn’t cause this – and that the cap is low because so many Americans’ wages have stagnated. Myths can be dangerous things – and even without a television show, we have to do what we can to bust them.
In order to gain a better understanding of Americans’ attitudes toward Social Security and what they would choose to do to resolve the future financing gap, the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) joined forces with Greenwald & Associates to look at the changes Americans favor and are willing to pay for. NASI released its study “Americans Make Hard Choices on Social Security: A Survey with Trade-Off Analysis” on Thursday, October 23. The 2014 study expands on an earlier study done in 2012.
The survey results showed that Americans do not mind paying for Social Security because they value it for themselves, their families and for the millions of other Americans who receive retirement, disability, children’s, and widowed spouses’ benefits. The vast majority of those surveyed (86%) agreed that current benefits do not provide sufficient retirement income and 72% believe that benefits should be increased. Overall, 77% agreed that it is critical to preserve Social Security for the future, even if payroll taxes must be increased to pay for the long-term security of the nation’s social insurance program.
Seventy percent of the survey participants support adopting a package of changes that would include lifting the cap on earnings taxed for Social Security, raising the payroll tax that workers and their employers each pay to 7.2% (14.4% total) from 6.2% (12.4%), increasing the cost of living adjustment, and setting a higher minimum benefit above the federal poverty line.
Despite valuing Social Security, 62% of the survey participants said they were not confident about the future of the insurance program. However, once they learned that raising Social Security taxes to 7.7% for both workers and employers would make Social Security solvent for 75 years, that confidence rose significantly.
The survey used a technique called trade-off analysis, a technique that allowed survey participants to choose among a set of policy options to arrive at their preferred package of policy changes.
More than 70 women and men attended the OWL fall meeting October 11. After being greeted by board President Margaret Huyck, Vice President Lida Rodriguez-Taseff facilitated the event. Christina Swoope, a Medicare expert from the Henry Kaiser Family Foundation, shared their latest research on the key role Medicare plays for older adults, particularly women. She also talked about the foundation’s newest interactive tool, which provides visual representation of income and assets of Medicare beneficiaries now and in the future.
Next to speak was Zelda Wisdom founder Carol Gardner, the newly appointed Secretary of the OWL board. She started with her very personal story of finding herself at the age of 52 divorced and deeply in debt. She took her divorce attorney’s advice to get a therapist or get a dog, bringing home four-month-old Zelda, an English bulldog. Another friend suggested that Carol use her creative skills to enter a local greeting card competition. She won, and the idea for Zelda Wisdom was born.
Members also heard from Nora Super, Executive Director of the White House 2015 Conference on Aging. She pointed out that every day for the next 15 years, thousands more people will reach retirement age, creating new opportunities for how we define what it means to be an older American. Her goal is to use the coming year to engage with older Americans, families, researchers, caregivers, and leaders in the field of aging – as she did with participants at the OWL meeting. (OWL attended the first White House roundtable on the conference and continues to be involved.)
She outlined several themes that have emerged, including: how to ensure we prepare for financial needs in retirement; how to remain healthy as we age; what types of services and supports can help older Americans remain independent in the community as we age and how to support this care and the caregivers who provide it; and how to protect older Americans from financial exploitation, abuse, and neglect.
OWL communications director Pat Lewis gave a quick overview of the campaign to encourage more women to vote in the November midterm, noting that women will decide the election one way or another – either by voting, or by staying home.
Following the meeting, attendees had the opportunity to talk to each of the speakers, along with OWL board members and staff, at a special luncheon.
Women may consistently register and vote in higher percentages than men, but 22 million women who were eligible to vote sat out the November 2010 mid-term election.
That’s why OWL and the Sewall Belmont House & Museum are launching a campaign to encourage women to get to the polls. With experts predicting record-low turnout for the midterm elections, each additional vote carries more weight. “The turn-out by women varies enormously,” said Celinda Lake, founder of Lake Research Partners. “In 2008, 66 percent of women voters turned out to vote; in 2010 46 percent turned out.”
It’s important because women tend to have a different perspective on politics. A bipartisan September 2012 survey by Lake and Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway found that regardless of political affiliation, 80 percent of women agreed on 80 percent of the issues. They also tended to support efforts to build consensus, solve problems and bring private and public interests together.
“Women feel the impact of decisions made by Congress more than men,” said OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar. “We have the most to gain and the most to lose when elected officials don’t think we’re paying attention. Voting in November is the best way to make sure they know that we are.”
Page Harrington, Executive Director of the Sewall Belmont House & Museum, said the campaign is focused on reminding women of the importance of their continued participation. “History shows us that we can make progress – but only if we work for it. No one else is going to do this for us.”
Combine the ground-breaking research by UC San Diego that personal social media messages can motivate people to vote with the fact that 76 percent of all women use Facebook, and there is a cost-effective and efficient way to try and reach women who have otherwise not been engaged.
A key part of OWL’s campaign will be enlisting a broad-based coalition to ask women, as they vote, to change their profile picture to a postage stamp with a flapper voting – and tag three friends to do the same. OWL intends to use its partnership with National Voter Registration Day, September 23, to share its initiative with the hundreds of other partner organizations and individuals.
“The women who won the right to vote used the social media of their day –writing and selling their own newspapers, chalking their messages on downtown streets, and giving ‘silent speeches’ in empty store windows” said Ann Lewis, former Director of Communications for President Bill Clinton. “Their courage and creativity won for us the most powerful tool to make change – voting. Now it’s up to us to use it!”
Las mujeres se inscriben de manera consistente y votan en porcentajes más altos que los hombres, pero 22 millones de mujeres que eran elegibles para votar dejaron pasar las elecciones de mitad de período de noviembre del 2010.
Es por eso que OWL y el Belmont House Sewall & Museum están lanzando una campaña para alentar a las mujeres a acudir a las urnas. Con expertos haciendo predicciones récord de mínima participación para las elecciones de mitad de término, cada voto adicional tiene más peso. “La participación de las mujeres varía enormemente,” dijo Celinda Lake, fundadora de Lake Research Partners. “En el 2008, el 66 por ciento de las mujeres votantes acudieron a las urnas; en el 2010, solo el 46 por ciento participo”.
Esto es importante porque las mujeres tienden a tener una perspectiva diferente de la política. Una encuesta bipartidista conducida en septiembre del 2012 por Lake y el encuestador republicano Kellyanne Conway encontró que, independientemente de su afiliación política, el 80 por ciento de las mujeres estuvo de acuerdo en el 80 por ciento de los temas. También tendían a apoyar los esfuerzos para obtener consensos, resolver problemas y a tratar intereses privados y públicos en conjunto.
“Las mujeres sienten el impacto de las decisiones tomadas por el Congreso más que los hombres”, dijo la Directora Ejecutiva de OWL Bobbie Brinegar. “Tenemos mucho que ganar y mucho que perder cuando los funcionarios electos no piensan que estamos prestando atención. La participación en la votación en noviembre es la mejor manera de asegurarse de que sepan que estamos prestando atención”.
Page Harrington, directora ejecutiva de la Sewall Belmont House & Museum, dijo que la campaña se centra en recordar a las mujeres de la importancia de su participación continua. “La historia nos demuestra que podemos avanzar, pero sólo si trabajamos para alcanzarlo. Nadie más va a hacerlo por nosotros”.
Si tomamos en consideración la investigación innovadora por la UC San Diego la cual encontró que mensajes personales en los medios sociales puede motivar a la gente a votar y el hecho de que el 76 por ciento de todas las mujeres usan Facebook, sabemos que esta es una manera rentable y eficiente para llegar a las mujeres que no han participado antes.
Una parte clave de la campaña será coordinar con una coalición de amplia base para pedir a las mujeres, que una vez que voten, cambien su foto de perfil por un sello de correos que tiene a una flapper votando - y pedirle etiquetar (tag) a tres amigos a hacer lo mismo. OWL tiene la intención de utilizar su asociación con el Día Nacional de Inscripción de Votantes, 23 de septiembre, para compartir su iniciativa con los cientos de otras organizaciones asociadas e individuos.
“Las mujeres que obtuvieron el derecho al voto utilizaron los medios sociales de su día –Escribían y vendían sus propios periódicos, escribían con tiza sus mensajes en las calles del centro, y daban “discursos silentes” en vidrieras de tiendas vacías “, dijo Ann Lewis, ex Directora de Comunicaciones para el presidente Bill Clinton. “El coraje y creatividad ganó para nosotros la herramienta más poderosa para hacer el cambio – el voto. Ahora esta de nuestra parte usarlo! ”
You are invited to join the OWL Board of Directors and special guests at our fall meeting Saturday, October 11, 11:00 – 12:30 p.m., in Chicago, at the Hyatt Place in Hyde Park. The meeting is free, and open to the public.
We have an inspiring panel of experts who will be sharing their perspectives on issues we all care about:
• We’ll hear from Carol Gardner, founder of Zelda Wisdom and an OWL board member, whose inspiring story of how she started a greeting card company in her living room – featuring her dog – has branded her as an expert on encore entrepreneurism, and landed her on shows like the Oprah Winfrey Show and Good Morning America.
• Did you know that the White House holds a conference on aging every decade? Joining us in Chicago is the newly appointed executive director of the 2015 conference. Nora Super. She’ll share the administration’s vision for the conference, and more importantly, she wants to hear from you about the issues you think will help shape the landscape for older Americans for the next decade.
• Christina Swoope, a Medicare policy analyst from the Henry Kaiser Family Foundation, will describe a new interactive tool “Visualizing Income and Assets among Medicare Beneficiaries: Now and in the Future” and explain the implications of what they have found.
OWL Board Vice President Lida Rodriguez-Taseff will facilitate the meeting. A Miami-based commercial trial lawyer, she also handles intellectual property, employment discrimination and retaliation cases and voting rights law. As part of her professional activities, she provides legal commentary for national and international media outlets including the BBC, CNN, CNN Headline News, FOX, CNBC, MSNBC, Univision, and Telemundo. She serves on the Board of Directors of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Friends of the Bass Museum of Art, and South Florida Jobs With Justice, and is Chair Emeritus of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition.
The meeting will also include an update on OWL’s exciting campaign with Sewall-Belmont House & Museum to harness the power of social media to engage the 22 million eligible women voters who sat out the 2010 midterms; and “Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers After 40,” OWL’s initiative to encourage and support women starting their own businesses – including how to increase their access to venture capital.
Following the meeting, you will have the opportunity for more discussion with the expert of your choice during lunch at A10 restaurant, 1462 E. 53rd Street. To RSVP for the $35 lunch, select your table, and send your check made out to OWL National to Margaret Huyck, 1718 E. 55th Street, Chicago 60615.
OWL is pleased to share this special preview of Zelda Wisdom’s dogma for National Voter Registration Day. It’s a great day to make sure your registration is up-to-date, and to reach out to friends to do the same. Speaking of voting—did you know that 22 million women eligible to vote in the last midterm election didn’t? OWL and the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum are working to engage those women this fall. (Yes, we’ve written about this before. But we’re doing it again because, yes, it’s that important.)
Just a reminder: experts are predicting record-low turnout in November. That means anyone who does vote is serving as a virtual proxy for dozens of non-voters. It’s a legal version of ‘voting often.’ And even though we know one election won’t turn things around, won’t necessarily make national politics more functional or Congress as a whole more likable, unless a whole lot more of us get in the habit of voting, it most certainly will only get worse.
If you didn’t know any better, Sunday’s opinion piece “When Did We Get So Old?” would have you believe that the biggest issue facing aging boomers is whether or not to dye their hair. With only the briefest of nods to financial issues, the author focuses instead on the ‘psychological quandary’ she says is causing her and her peers the ‘most unpleasantness’ –being the oldest in the room.
Really? This warrants how many column inches? That we’re a very large, very self-important demographic that has discovered that aging is icky?
Meanwhile, the web is replete with alarming statistics about how unprepared boomers are for the more important aspects of aging. How we’re working well past ‘retirement’ age out of necessity, that we have no savings and have given no thought to long-term care—concepts particularly true for women and people of color.
But instead of taking advantage of some of media’s most valuable real estate to point out that these are societal and not just personal issues, this piece instead chooses to perpetuate the myth that all boomers are awash in cash and retirement savings, and are ready to SoulCycle their way into their 90s.
Letter to the Editor Washington Post
September 3, 2014
John Delaney makes several excellent points in “The solution to fixing dysfunction in Congress”. One of the most critical aspects is low turnout, which is quickly becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Faced with a dysfunctional Congress, people see little point in voting, which concentrates the voting power in an increasingly small set of hands – and the cycle continues. Any steps that we can take to enfranchise more voters, such as open primaries, can only strengthen our democracy.
Even women, who consistently register and vote in greater percentages than men (Post columnist Catherine Rampell wrote about this recently), are not exercising their power in midterm elections. In the 2010 midterms, 22 million women who could have voted didn’t; that’s why OWL, along with the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, is launching an initiative this year to engage these women. After all, the only way we as individuals can have an impact now is by participating in the process, even if the process itself is less than ideal.
There’s a new kid on the block in the area of socially responsible investing. The Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund (PXWEX) is the only mutual fund in the U.S. dedicated to investing in companies that have a significant proportion of women in senior leadership roles.
The fund is led by Sallie Krawcheck, a former Bank of America and Citigroup executive who is now an entrepreneur.
“Companies with more women in senior management have higher returns on capital, lower volatility, greater client focus, increased innovation and greater long-term orientation…I can think of no better way to invest in women than to invest in those companies around the world that have distinguished themselves by both their business performance and their leadership in advancing women,” said Krawcheck.
Among the companies in the fund, 100% have at least one woman on their board of directors, and 97% have two or more women; also, 31% of board seats and 24% of executive management positions are held by women, compared to an 11% global average for each.
The fund seeks companies who have women as CEOs, CFOs, board members, and executive management, and who are signatories to the Women’s Empowerment Principles (a joint initiative of the UN Global Compact and UN Women).
The Pax Ellevate Fund is tied to the Pax Global Women’s Leadership Index, a customized index of the highest-rated companies in the world in advancing women’s leadership and that meet key environmental, social and governance standards.