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Financial Education for the Over-50 Set

Finances 50+ Aims to Help an Overlooked Group Over 50

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More than 20 million low-income Americans age 50 or older can’t meet basic financial needs, according to the AARP. This group also faces the largest unemployment and has the most difficulty finding jobs in this economy. So how do you even think about saving for an emergency, let alone retirement?

Finances 50+ is an educational program that aims to help this group figure out their finances. Backed by the AARP Foundation and the Charles Schwab Foundation, Finances 50+ is a free, three-part educational series. It will start in seven major U.S. cities: Austin, Baltimore, Denver, New Orleans, Phoenix, San Francisco and Washington D.C. But individuals or nonprofit groups in other cities can visit the Finances 50+ website to download the information at any time.

“AARP, in their research, found this group of Americans is having a tough time making ends meet. But the working poor still have room in their finances and could potentially have a secure retirement,” says Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, CFP, and president of the Charles Schwab Foundation.

The Charles Schwab Foundation has a decades-long history helping individuals and families with financial literacy and education. One of the foundation’s signature programs is Money Matters: Make It Count. Run with the Boys and Girls club of America, the initiative has aimed to help teach kids about finances. “We’ve made great progress with kids. But given where we are in this economy and the millions of boomers hitting retirement age. This is an overlooked population that needs help,” says Schwab-Pomerantz.

The issues that low-income baby boomers face in this economy can mirror those of people with higher income opportunities. But the financial problems of the poor are compounded when they use financial tools outside of the mainstream, and not necessarily in their best interest. Think payday loans and check cashing services. “They are paying a lot of money they don’t have to be paying for their banking,” says Schwab-Pomerantz. “That’s a big issue for this group.” How to find the right bank and investment accounts is the type of information participants learn in Finances 50+. The material covers three overarching topics to help you improve your financial situation:
  • Budgeting and goal setting
  • Taking charge of credit and debt
  • Developing a savings plan and protecting your assets
Students work with Money Mentors who can go beyond the syllabus and help solve individual issues. For example, one mentor helped a divorced woman in her late 60s who lives solely on her Social Security retirement check cut her expenses and automatically funnel $25 a month into an automatic savings plan. It may not sound like much, but it will grow into a cash cushion that can help in emergencies. “She’s building assets as opposed to just spending,” says Schwab-Pomerantz. Having someone work with you can make a big impact on your financial goals, It’s a concept the Charles Schwab Corp. was built on. The idea behind Finances 50+ is to combine mentoring and education and really make the smart financial advice stick. Then there’s the emotional stuff. Many of us know the feeling—an unexpected bill sets us into a financial tailspin. Sometimes it can feel so overwhelming, it’s easier to shut down and stop paying things altogether. But this kind of fear can put you into deeper financial trouble. But armed with a little optimism, you may find ways to deal with financial problems. “There are resources out there,” Schwab-Pomerantz says. Like the earned income tax credit, the savers tax credit, programs to lower your utility bills. There are ways to cut their expenses.”

Volunteering for Financial 50+

The local nonprofits that run the Finances 50+ courses are also looking for program volunteers to facilitate or mentor in the seven pilot cities. But you don’t have to be a financial genius to be a coach, just someone who is comfortable managing your own finances. “Someone who lives within your means, saves regularly, understands the benefits of paying off a credit card, and has a passion for service,” says Schwab-Pomerantz. But you don’t have to be perfect, she adds. “Some of our best volunteers are those who’ve had a bump in the road themselves. Someone who can share their story.”

Retirement Advice for All Savers

What’s the biggest piece of advice Schwab-Pomerantz would give any retirement saver? First, it’s never too late. It’s time to assess your situation, seek professional help, and make a plan. “What is your current situation? Where are the gaps? Then build a plan to bridge those gaps,” she says.

Disclosure: The content on this site is provided for information and discussion purposes only, and should not be the basis for your investment decisions. Under no circumstances does this information represent a recommendation to buy or sell securities.

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