A new statewide initiative with the goal of urging women to bolster their savings to stave off debt and invest for retirement was launched Thursday (Oct. 10) at the Little Rock corporate offices of Simmons Bank.
The women’s only movement, called SAVE10, is the brainchild of co-founders Sarah Catherine Gutierrez and Stephanie Matthews. They have partnered with the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas (WFA) to mobilize women and communities to collectively save for retirement. WFA will be collecting data to measure the success of SAVE10, with the goal to make Arkansas a model for other states, organizers said.
“SAVE10 is not just an ask. It is not a directive on a piece of paper because that doesn’t work,” Gutierrez said of the challenge to get women to sign up for the program and publicly display their SAVE10 badge. “The secret sauce is that for the first time we are putting money in the mainstream conversation. We are asking all of our new savers to spread this through a personal ask — friend-to-friend, mom-to-daughter, co-worker to co-worker, sister-to-sister.”
In her remarks, WFA executive director Anna Beth Gorman said women are particularly vulnerable to not having enough in savings for retirement.
“Women have longer life expectancies than men, step out of the workforce more often as caregivers, and they make less than men,” she said. “This means saving is more critical for women than men. But studies show that we have a gender wealth gap where women ‘own’ or save $0.32 on the dollar compared to men, with the gap widening even further for women of color. We’re encouraging all women to take the challenge and commit to saving at least 10% towards retirement.”
Gutierrez added that the nation is facing a “retirement crisis” where every age group from millennials to seniors has not banked enough savings to give up work and live comfortably.
“This is troubling for us as a country,” she said. “As a financial planner or anyone in the financial services sector knows, when you sit across the table from someone who can’t retire, who is terrified and shame — this is tragedy. For the first time, we are seeing that the experiment of defined contributions for the baby boomers has largely failed. Yet the experiment continues.”
During the hour-long ceremony, a proclamation was read from Congressman French Hill, R-Little Rock, that also encouraged women to start saving early, set aside a portion of their paycheck to build wealth and take advantage of federal tax credits for small business owners that expand 401(K) savings to their employees.
State Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, also represented the Arkansas Women’s Caucus and other SAVE10 partners to show support for the importance of educating women about savings. Simmons Bank, which will serve as the official bank partner of the SAVE10 initiative, also announced a new banking account for to help provide a platform for young Arkansans to begin saving at an early age.
At the end of the program, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott said the city would partner with SAVE10 to give local women an opportunity to join the program. To date, SAVE10 has partnered with at least a dozen companies, nonprofits and universities across the state, organizers said. Approximately 5,000 women have pledged to begin saving 10% of their payroll earnings.
“We are excited to join in this ministry, to join in this movement, to focus on personal savings because … you help all of our residents,” said Scott, a Baptist minister and former banker.