April 12, 2012 | CUNY Matters
Financial planning workshops provide practical advice and also inspire dreams.
Jazzmine Clarke-Glover has an interesting job as a CUNY Graduate Center human resources specialist, but she also wants to start a business as she continues to work for the University. “One of my goals is to be an entrepreneur. To have companies that empower women,” she said recently, a white flower regally decorating her dark hair. She’s starting with a website — which she hopes to use as a springboard to develop wellness seminars for black women on issues related to their health and well-being.
Clarke-Glover was among 42 CUNY women who work in a wide range of positions and are in different stages of their lives. They all attended a March workshop called “She’s Got It: A Woman’s Guide to Saving and Investing.” It was organized for CUNY by TIAA-CREF, the well-known financial services organization and held at its corporate offices in Manhattan — a Women’s History Month offering that spoke to the future of women.
Similar TIAA-CREF workshops — some geared to women, others for all employees — are also conducted periodically on the University’s campuses. An April 3 women’s session was scheduled at the New York College of Technology in Brooklyn. Sessions with an individual TIAA-CREF counselor can also be arranged through campus human resources offices or by calling 800-732-8353.
Helena Gaffney, a client services consultant, led the TIAA-CREF seminar attended by Clarke-Glover. By way of introduction, Gaffney spoke about her first experience with financial planning – as an 11-year-old babysitter.
“My mother had me divide my money into three piles,” she explained. “A ‘save,’ pile, a ‘gift’ pile and a ‘keep’ pile. She knew how important it was to save a little bit from what you earn. And how important it is to also make sure you give a little to those less fortunate. It was also important to have fun. That was my ‘keep’ pile. . . . Make sure to pay yourself!” Ultimately some of Gaffney’s early savings helped her to pay the down payment on a house. “I did a lot of babysitting,” she joked.
Gaffney also detailed the hard facts that underscore why women must plan.
“I don’t want to get everyone hot under the collar,” she said. “. . . But for every dollar a man earns, a woman will earn 75 cents. So you need to work longer, save more and allocate your investments wisely.”
A TIAA-CREF workbook distributed to participants noted a similar earnings disparity. It also said that women on average live three years longer than men and need to plan for that. Women also spend an average of 11.5 years out of the workforce during their adult lifetime. Ninety percent of them make less than $50,000 a year. The average retirement income among women in 2009 was $14,429; for men it was $25,344. The workbook helped the attendees to determine their “financial personality types,” a tool to use to help them plan.
Along with Clarke-Glover from the Graduate Center, the workshop was also attended by women from seven CUNY senior colleges, three community colleges and other University offices. Participants included University vice presidents, administrative assistants and events coordinators, among others.
Some said they were still not sure whether they would have children. Others were grandmothers. They all shared strategies. One woman, for example, noted that she was charging rent to her grown children who live with her – but putting it aside for them to use in the future.
Workshop leader Gaffney also suggested saving for retirement rather than for college tuition since loans and scholarships are often available. She added that the participants might want to keep putting aside the money they had been saving for car and other loans even when those loans are paid off, in order to build up a savings — and to increase contributions to savings and retirement plans. “You could do this when you get a raise, but again make sure to keep some for yourself,” she said.
Emphasizing that every bit helps, Gaffney noted that buying bottled water instead of using filtered water from home can cost as much as $800 a year — money that could be used elsewhere.
Early in the session Gaffney asked each participant to introduce herself to a woman or two and discuss their own financial concerns and strategies. In one group of three, a woman said she did not want to wind up like the older women she knew who had no savings. Another woman spoke about her pregnancy and the financial worries any new mother would have. The third woman in the group was Dorothy Eisenpress, who attended as the wife of a University systems programmer. She said that she put her pension in TIAA-CREF and now works as a fitness instructor and massage therapist.
At the end, the women lingered to network. Jazzmine Clarke-Glover was among many to hand out cards for both their work at CUNY and their other endeavors. Hers said: “Making YOU the #1 Priority.”
Updating Beneficiaries Can Be Very Important
At the TIAA-CREF workshop, expert Helena Gaffney spoke about women in the midst of divorce proceedings and suggested they consider whether it is wise to give up retirement benefits in order to keep their house. What if you can’t afford to stay in the house?” she asked.
In a related offering of advice, she then emphasized that, when appropriate, it could be very important to update beneficiaries.
This is good advice for men, as well, of course.
If you have experienced any change in your family status — including marriage, the birth or adoption of a child, a divorce or a death in the family — since your initial job appointment, you should contact your college Human Resources office as well as your retirement plan regarding updating your beneficiary-designation forms.
AT YOUR SERVICE
Legislation Allows Extended Health Coverage for Young Adults
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), federal legislation allows the extension of dependent health coverage for children under the age of 26.
Additionally, under New York State Law (referred to as the “Age 29” law), employees have the opportunity to continue health benefits coverage through the City of New York. Following are CUNY’s requirements for employees and their young adults:
·The parent must be covered under a CUNY group policy
·The young adult must be unmarried
·The young adult must be 29 years of age or under
·The young adult must not be insured by, or eligible for, comprehensive (i.e. medical and hospital) health insurance through his or her own employer
·The young adult must live, work or reside in New York State or the health insurance company’s service area
·The young adult must not be covered under Medicare
To be covered, employees must enroll their young adults during the CUNY annual transfer period or, if a qualified change in family status occurs mid-plan year, within 60 days of the event.
One CUNY employee interviewed recently said he was happy to have this benefit for his 21-year-old son, who had just graduated from college and had not been able to find a job. He was also undergoing tests for a recently diagnosed medical condition and in order to have comparable medical coverage on his own he would have to pay for COBRA — which would have cost him about $400 a month.
Under the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the CUNY employee was able to keep his son on his coverage without paying anything additional since the son was already enrolled in family coverage. This benefit was applicable to welfare fund coverage as well, which meant that he would not have to pay for costly prescription drugs either.
College Savings Program: Flexible, Convenient And Low-Cost
CUNY employees are eligible to participate in New York’s 529 College Savings Program Direct Plan. This program provides a flexible, convenient and low-cost way to save for qualified higher education expenses.
Employees can save for a child, grandchild, other relative, friend, or even for themselves, through payroll deductions. An account can be opened for as little as $25 ($15 if contributing by payroll deduction).
For further information, consult your college Human Resources Office or New York’s 529 College Savings Program at www.ny529atwork.com.
Preparing For Natural Disasters
We all hope there are no disasters in our future. But hurricanes close to home and other natural calamities worldwide have made us wary. The University, through its Work/Life Program organized by Corporate Consulting Associates, can help you and your family make some preparations — just in case. “Getting Prepared Before a Disaster Strikes,” a 60-minute webinar available gratis to CUNY employees, will be online April 17 at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. To view it — and learn steps to help you cope with a disaster as well as see the careful preparation of an action plan — you must register. Just go to www.myccaonline.com and type in the code: CUNY. All employees can feel free to sign up — there’s no space limitation.