Speaking of volunteers, they are the fourth reason for my optimism about Finances 50+. As in most AARP programs, member volunteers are its backbone and we're seeking more help. We are looking for facilitators to lead the 90-minute in-person workshops, and money mentors to work one-on-one with participants over the phone after they finish the classroom sessions. Volunteers do not offer specific financial advice; instead, they're sounding boards, providing guidance, support and motivation.
The Finances 50+ program itself starts with this basic premise: If you don't know where you are, it's difficult to figure out where you want to go ... or how you'll get there. The first of its three 90-minute workshops covers financial self-assessment, goal setting and budget planning. One participant, 66-year-old Diana Walker of Sun City, Ariz., wants to retire but can't afford to. "I don't believe I'm managing my finances wisely ... I don't have any goals for my money, and I'm not sure what these goals should be," she told the Daily News-Sun. We think the course can help the millions of seniors in her predicament find their way out. The program material includes an action plan to help older adults lay out the steps that will help them identify, and ultimately reach, their goals.
The second workshop of Finances 50+ is about taking control of credit and debt. Consumer and housing debt is a growing problem for older adult households, and the program leads older people through the maze of obtaining and understanding a credit report, working with creditors, managing debt and prioritizing debt repayments.
The third workshop deals with asset building and protection. It helps older participants lay out a savings plan and includes tips for avoiding scams and identity theft that are often a part of so-called financial "opportunities." The Finances 50+ material also includes a comprehensive list of additional resources, so participants can take a deeper dive into important financial topics.
A lost job combined with lost medical insurance coverage and an unexpected illness can move an older family from comfort to crisis in an appallingly short time. This economy hit lots of age groups very hard, but older people have less time to recoup than younger people. We want struggling older people to know that, regardless of their circumstances, Finances 50+ can help empower them to take control of their finances. Retirement doesn't have to be a mirage and everyone can take steps to increase their financial security.
Jo Ann Jenkins is president of AARP Foundation.
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