Comfort Zone for Women to Plan Their Futures

Posted on 05/23/2013 by | AARP Blog Author | Comments

When Natalie Ellington, 61, of Kent, attended a women-only 'Decide. Create. Share.' session, she learned 'to tell your money where it's going instead of watching where your money went.' Photo by Barbara Kinney

When Natalie Ellington, 61, of Kent, attended a women-only ‘Decide. Create. Share.’ session, she learned ‘to tell your money where it’s going instead of watching where your money went.’ Photo by Barbara Kinney

By Vanessa Ho • After she was let go from her job a month after turning 59, Natalie Ellington knew she needed to save money and plan for her future. But it wasn’t until she went to an AARP “Decide. Create. Share.” forum that she realized how much more she could be doing.

“I’m not financially ready at all,” said Ellington, who’s now 61 and lives in Kent. “One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to tell your money where it’s going instead of watching where your money went.”

Learn in small groups

In small group settings, “Decide. Create. Share.” helps women in their 40s, 50s and 60s plan for financial security, lifelong health care and home safety.

“This is about choosing how you want the future to go,” said Cheryl Weber, outreach director for AARP Washington. “If you wait too long, it becomes a crisis situation.”

Why women and not men? Because women tend to live longer than men; a 55-year-old woman today can expect to live to 84. Women are more likely to be the caregivers for their spouses, so they often end up alone when they need help in later years, Weber said.

Also, women often have less income than men, and married women sometimes have less knowledge about family finances than their husbands.

Nationally, women make up seven in 10 residents in nursing homes, the most expensive kind of long-term care. On average, a private room in a Washington nursing home costs more than $96,000 a year.

“Decide. Create. Share.” gives women a primer on long-term care options and resources for calculating financial needs in retirement.

The forum explains living wills and the need to make medical wishes clear to family members.

It also helps women assess how safe and comfortable their homes and communities are for when they’re older. Are there stairs? Is it easy for friends to visit? How about good transportation for when driving becomes difficult?

“I hadn’t really thought about the design of the home,” said Ellington, who lives with her husband and runs her own business. “You tend not to think about yourself not being able to get up and down the stairs.”

After attending a “Decide. Create. Share.” program, Ellington was eager to help other women improve their lives. She signed on as a volunteer facilitator for the forums.

“Decide. Create. Share.” trains volunteer facilitators, who share their knowledge with other women in groups ranging from community events to small book clubs.

A good place for reviewing

For Bette Robbins, 66, another facilitator, the program was a good review. Before retiring as a manager at Seattle Public Utilities, Robbins took many of the steps the program recommends, including purchasing long-term care insurance and preparing a medical directive covering her end-of-life wishes.

She thought the program would help many women she knew, including some going through a divorce and learning about their finances for the first time.

“I see folks around me not being as prepared as I was,” said Robbins, who lives in Seattle. “Women are caregivers, and they need to think about themselves.”

She also likes how “Decide. Create. Share.” isn’t run by a financial planner trying to solicit business. Instead, women help other women, making it easier to confront sensitive issues, Robbins said.

“We don’t want to think about many of those things,” she said. “But [the program] gives people a good sense of what they need to be thinking about now.”

Forums are 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Seattle July 20, Olympia Sept. 28, and Spokane Oct. 12. Registration is required at aarp.org/wa or toll-free at 877-926-8300. Lunch is provided.

Email aarpwa@aarp.org to request facilitator training or a forum for your group.

Vanessa Ho is a writer living in Seattle