Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Child marriage : Gender inequality and Cultural Norms

In some cultures, child marriage for girls is common. This supports discrimination and the abuse of girls and women, treating them as commodities that can be traded for cash, goods or status. The expectation that a girl’s future lies with marriage and motherhood limits opportunities and can lead to the risk of serious abuses. In Niger, 77% of women aged 20 to 49 were married before the age of 18 compared to 2% of men.

Every year, millions of girls around the world become brides before the age of 18. It is also known as early forced marriage.
Girls who are required to enter into marriage at an early age are at greater risk of domestic violence and abuse. They are less likely to be able to escape poverty. Those having children too young have a significantly increased risk of health complications, death in childbirth and infant mortality.

Child marriage is prevalent in communities where poverty is widespread, birth and death rates are high and access to education and healthcare is low. It can be seen as a strategy for short-term financial security, often taking place in exchange for goods or resources that support the survival of other family members. Girls from the poorest households are at greatest risk of becoming child brides.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

"A Woman's Place"

 "A Woman's Place" by singer-songwriter Sara Thomsen

I am a woman, and my place is in the home
And my home is the whole wide world
We are world shapers, we are change makers
We are potters spinning clay, we are dreamers of a new day

We are asking questions, we are opening up the door
We are searching, finding answers,
We are wisdom seeking more
Rabbi, singer, teacher, professor, poet, preacher
Driving buses, styling hair
We are everywhere

We are women
We are sweeping the hearth
We are dreaming in the dark
We are weaving at the loom
We are the rhythms of the moon
We are world shapers, we are change makers
We are tenders of the earth, we are women giving birth

We are packing lunches,
We are sewing the clothes you wear
We are sleeping on park benches,
We are kneeling down in prayer
Doctor, dancer, scientist, carpenter and journalist
Telling stories, rocking chairs
We are everywhere

We are women
We are stirring the pot
We are keeping the fire hot
We are holding a child's hand
We are the rhythms of the land
We are world shapers, we are change makers
We are potters spinning clay, we are dreamers of a new day

We are laughing, crying, we are taking the time to play
We are singing, we are sighing,
We are making our own way
Politician, volunteer, refugee, and engineer
In the streets and on the air
We are everywhere

We are world shapers, we are change makers
We are potters spinning clay, we are dreamers of a new day
We are rule breakers, we are home makers
We are healers of the earth
We are mid-wives at the birth

We are women, and our place is in the home
And our home is the whole wide world

(c) 2006 Sara Thomsen.
(Everything Changes CD)

Photography credits:
Rick Lewis:
Heriberto Rodriguez: http://heribertorodriguez.photoshelte...
Julia Cheng:
Bob Fitch:
Dave Blumenkrantz:
Andrew Kielbowicz:
Nancy Siesel:
Helen Mongan-Rallis; Mary Engels; Doug Fairchild; James Gensheimer; R. V. Spencer; Dave Ballard; Kathy Sloane; friends and family; personal collection; various online sources

 Thanks to
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Saturday, August 19, 2017


Planning for one’s end of life expenses is, certainly, depressing and stressful in and of itself. Trying to plan for what happens after death is even more stressful when funds are limited and focused on providing the living with necessities.
Arranging these discussions as early as possible can take some of the stress away from having to do so when the situation requires it. It cannot be assumed loved ones will automatically know one’s wishes or how final expenses are to be paid for. Preparation is key and having certain steps in place will ease the burden on surviving family members.
Completing steps such as health care directives including a living will which will expressly detail your wishes and completing a durable power of attorney for health care, which will appoint a trusted someone to determine health care in the case of incapacitation, will lessen the stress and alleviate the emotional toll on loved ones.
Next, consult with a legal representative to determine whether a durable power of attorney for finances, a living trust or a will is most appropriate for the circumstances. Ensuring finances are in order not only protects loved ones left behind, it also ensures wishes are respected.
Working with a hospice and social worker can help maintain the legal, ethical and moral expectations which can be missed when preparation is not completed ahead of time. It can also help to prevent unnecessary life-prolonging treatments which were not desired but implemented due to a family member’s inability to let go.
Reading or hearing an individual’s wishes in their own words can help those left behind to cope and process their guilt and sadness. Planning for end of life is not only a kindness to loved ones, it is also a benefit for those working to aid survivors through the entire process.
When it comes to retirement, pre-retirees have many decisions to make and a new world of opportunity to consider. While many choose to stop working altogether, there are many others who continue to work part-time to maintain a sense of purpose and supplemental income for their golden years. Preparation is paramount to preventing stress when planning for retirement and especially when it’s finally time to enjoy life.
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Thursday, August 17, 2017


Hoping as the cost of living and inflation rise, salaries and Social Security benefits will increase as well is just wishful thinking. The Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is an increased benefit which is provided monthly.
Unfortunately, there was no COLA for 2015 and only a 0.3 percent increase for 2016. Those receiving Social Security benefits were left to fight inflation while receiving minimal or no adjustment for the rising costs.
For the most recent 2017 benefit year, award benefits increased by 0.3 percent, the same as 2016.

Attempting to keep up with inflated costs on a fixed retirement fund budget negatively affects the purchasing power of retirees. When planning began, their financial roadmap may have aimed for one specific amount which would have addressed the mortgage/living situation, debt, pending auto loans, medical expenses, possible unexpected expenses and to maintain a certain lifestyle.
Sadly, inflation is causing as many as three out of five middle-class new retirees to outlive their retirement funds if they attempt to maintain pre-retirement style of living. Pre-retirees will have to factor in an annual inflation rate of about 3% to ensure they do not outlive their retirement funds.
Researching the Consumer Price Index will provide additional information as to how much consumers are paying for goods and services now versus how much was paid for those same goods or services in years past. For those who prefer a more precise look at inflation, the U.S. Inflation Calendar uses the latest data to determine a cumulative rate of inflation for any date between 1913 to 2017.
Pre-retirees should also keep an eye on investments when gauging how inflation will affect their retirement lifestyles. 401ks and IRA’s are both examples of investment vehicles susceptible to the effects of an increased cost of living can have on retirement. Verifying value and all terms with the investment company or your agent can provide much-needed insight to protect your retirement fund as much as possible.
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Tuesday, August 15, 2017


As most pre-retirees plan for a future with a reduced and fixed income, those who are homeowners face the harsh reality where, just because they retire, does not mean their mortgage or debt will go away. Sadly, they will have to find a way to continue to pay higher mortgages on an even more limited income.
With the fluctuating housing markets, the equity in their homes rises and falls every couple of years. Many homeowners have borrowed against the equity in their home for any number of reasons including vacations, home or auto repairs, medical expenses or to supplement their monthly income, just to name a few.
Some turn to newer financial vehicles to prevent defaulting on their home loans. Reverse mortgages are one such method which provides greater financial security for seniors who have been allowed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Rather than paying their loan payment every month, qualified homeowners are allowed to convert a portion of the equity in the home to cash and halt payments on the loan until such a time where the home is no longer used as a primary residence or they fail to meet the obligations of the mortgage.
Ongoing debt from sources such as credit cardsmedical expenses or financially assisting adult children can play a hefty role in increasing stress levels of pre-retirees and those already in retirement. Applying for consolidation loans, reduced monthly payments and using home equity to pay off other debt are all valid methods or addressing ongoing debt.
Working with a professional financial advisor to plan for and pay off ongoing debt can alleviate much of the unnecessary stress experienced by older adults. Understanding how variable interest rates, fees, and payment timetables can be adjusted and used to benefit the pre-retiree is just one way a financial advisor can work within the scope of an individual’s situation to provide relief they did not believe possible.
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Sunday, August 13, 2017


How secure will Social Security be down the line?
For the Baby Boomer generation, Social Security and pensions were touted as entitlements and assurances when it came time for retirement.
Sadly, the reality is both of these former benefits are on the financial endangered species list and those planning their exit from the workforce are left to almost fully fund their retirements.
While Social Security benefits were not intended to fund retirement fully, they were created to provide much needed income support for seniors, especially those with a limited income. Sadly, the amount of these benefits has decreased due to the increasing number of individuals submitting their claims for benefits.
While many falsely believe benefits cannot be claimed prior to the government set retirement age, which is currently 67, this is not accurate. To receive the full amount of Social Security, it is best to withhold a claim until the full retirement age has been reached.
However, if circumstances necessitate submitting a claim due to financial hardship or early retirement, a lesser amount will be awarded for the duration of the claim.
The online Social Security Benefits Planner (SSBP) can provide information regarding the number of credits an individual has earned and whether it is sufficient for benefits to apply.
Credits are earned based on covered earnings per calendar year and averaged out over the duration of an individual’s working years to determine the amount of monthly payment they are entitled to. The minimum number of credits is based on the birth year, with those born in 1929 or later necessitating 40 credits to qualify.
According to the SSBP, the amount of the monthly benefit can increase for each year a delay for the request or application for benefits is delayed with the highest amount awarded at the age of 70. While there is no one age which is best for all to apply for Social Security, individual circumstances should be considered including health, personal finances, and family longevity.
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Friday, August 11, 2017


Many pre-and post-retirees half-heartedly joke they can’t afford to die due to inflated funeral costs, yet they can’t afford to live because of increasing medical costs and decreasing medical coverage for seniors. The impact on retirees due to rising out-of-pocket expenses for premiums and prescription drugs is palpable.
With each changing administration, government policies and priorities change regarding health care benefits.
The inability to rely on a consistent plan with set premiums and costs makes it difficult for pre-retirees to plan for potential future medical costs effectively. Relying on Medicare to supplement medical expenditures means even the most conservative and well-intentioned estimations will most likely fall short of actual figures.
There are government resources available online provide a breakdown of costs associated with Medicare Part A, Part B, Part C and Part D for those in the pre-planning stages of retirement. These resources illustrate the costs for varying levels of coverage and financial status.
To ensure adequate funds are set-aside, and interpretation of plan requirements are met, it is highly advisable to review the official site to educate oneself on the ins and outs or Medicare coverage before enrolling.
Supplemental plans are also available from companies such as Scan and MetLife to provide yet another level of coverage for those needing medical coverage at retirement but whose medical need is greater than what can be covered by Medicare.
Supplemental plans are also for those who may have developed medical conditions and will need to see specialists, have frequent medical exams run, or who need assistance with increasing prescription costs.
Monthly Medicare premiums vary state to state and year to year.
In order to help mitigate rising costs, a Medigap policy known as Part F is available to cover Part A and Part B co-insurance and deductibles, as well as other services. Speaking with a financial or health insurance professional can provide you with a roadmap of what services are necessary to meet unexpected health care costs.
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