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WISER and ABD: Building Rural Retirement Incentives for Women

Nominated by Andre Heinz

In West Virginia, the second most rural state, women have the lowest workforce participation in the country, compounding the problems during their retirement years. Since 2003 WISER, the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement, has been experimenting with innovative grassroots efforts to address rural retirement.

In partnership with Appalachian By Design (ABD), a grassroots non-profit enterprise connects home-based knitters to produce and market knitwear, a retirement plan based on the Individual Development Account concept (encouraging savings via training and match programs) was developed. Eight self-employed women started self-managed retirement plans and attended financial education classes. In 2008, the project expanded to self-employed childcare workers.

During this phase, it became clear that the best savings vehicle for this group was the Series I Bond. They are trusted, portable, have small minimums, a competitive interest rate (currently 3.36%), no administrative fee, do not require a checking account, and are issued in paper or on-line. They are available at all banks, can be set up with automatic deposits and, importantly for small savers, they are guaranteed.

Each quarter, if participants attend a financial planning workshop and save money by purchasing an I-Bond, their savings is matched by 50%--an effort to simulate a refundable Savers Tax Credit.

WISER and ABD are worldchanging for their work to improve the long-term financial security of all women through education and advocacy.


Andre Heinz is co-founder and investment director of Sustainable Technologies Fund.


Editor's Note: WISER was started with an initial grant from the Heinz Family Philanthropies, a charitable foundation chaired by Andre Heinz's mother, Teresa Heinz. Andre Heinz has no personal financial stake in or relationship with WISER.


Editor's Note: This piece is part of Worldchanging's Attention Philanthropy campaign. All week long, the Worldchanging Network will be delivering "attention grants" to worthy projects, individuals, resources and more. You can learn more about these gifts of notice and find other entries by clicking here.

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