How the political landscape could influence your finances and retirement savings

Jan 13, 2012, 9:15 a.m.

Feeling a little whiplash? You're not alone. The last three years have been a crazy rollercoaster ride for the stock market, and your retirement savings may have taken a significant hit. In fact, according to data released by AARP last May, one in four older Americans have already burned through their retirement savings, thanks to the unstable economy.

Many older Americans counted on equity in their homes to finance their retirement relocation to the Sun Belt or just to tap for a line of credit. Unfortunately, older Americans have been especially hard hit by the housing market crash. In 2010, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (JCHS) reported that mobility rates among Americans aged 55 and older have fallen by 39 percent since 2005. What does this mean for you? While it's still possible to sell a large home and downsize, fewer older Americans are able to achieve the return on their money they once hoped would finance a retirement relocation. Combined with continued economic uncertainty, this means millions of older Americans are facing a questionable financial future.

While the economy continues to bounce around, it's important to have a diversified retirement savings strategy in place. However, even the best financial planning can't predict the future, and it's natural to feel frustrated. You've worked hard your whole life and carefully planned for retirement. Instead of confidently enjoying your golden years, economic uncertainties and a changing political landscape have dealt your retirement account a huge wildcard.

It's natural to feel frustrated with the economy and political leadership. While you can't control the stock market any more than you can control the weather, you can make a difference in our country's political future. Your voice matters -- and no regardless of where you stand in politics, getting involved can make a difference for your future. As retired or semi-retired professionals, we have greater flexibility with our schedules to volunteer. If you're concerned about your financial future and retirement savings, use this time to advocate for a secure retirement.

Effective advocacy starts with a full understanding of the issues at hand. You can stay up-to-date on retirement security through different organizations, such as the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College or AARP. There are many political organizations and non-partisan think tanks that advocate for senior retirement security. Whether your concern is Social Security or protecting your pension plan, joining an organization's mailing list is a great way to stay informed about the issues that matter most to you.

The most important thing you can do to protect your retirement security is to vote. If you've moved around a lot over the years or have recently relocated thanks to retirement, you may not be registered to vote in your community. To learn more about voter registration, visit the League of Women Voter's non-partisan Vote411.org website. Sponsored by the League's Voter Education Fund, this site allows you to download voter registration forms and locate your polling places based on your current address. You can even find out who is up for election in your community using the "On Your Ballot" feature -- you'll see races from the Federal, State and Local level.

No matter where you stand politically, decisions made by the government in the next few years will have a profound impact on your quality of life -- and could determine whether you enjoy a financially secure retirement. Now is the time to get involved and let you voice be heard!

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