Connecting People to Power
By Melody Webb (August 17, 2002)
In February of this year, I attended a Women’s Bar Association forum and left with a finished concept for a domain name I had then owned for almost four years prior. I had heard the motivational speech of Ann Crittenden, an author mobilizing mothers to press Congress for family friendly legislation. (I have since joined forces with her to work on these issues.) I left the conference ready to launch what is now SecureMom.com – which I finally did a couple of months ago. The gist of the site is this: Mothers and all primary caregivers need their unpaid work reflected in Social Security retirement benefits. Our mission at SecureMom.com is to make that happen by organizing family caregivers – particularly at-home moms – to force lawmakers to fashion laws that impute $16,500 worth of earnings per year for up to five years for unpaid at-home caregivers to boost their benefits in retirement.
I am new to the group so I’d like now to tell you a bit about who I am to explain why I have assumed this task. First, though I am always reluctant to admit it - I am an attorney. I hate to say it since people have all sorts of preconceived notions about us – like, in this case : what clueless arrogance that I would actually take on such a project. Alright, so maybe that one does apply to me – but that’s the only stereotype that does. Seriously, I am a public interest entrepreneur, a native of Washington, D.C. , and a graduate of D.C.’s public schools (and believe it or not still managed to do a twofer at Harvard University). I’ve run a bunch of entrepreneurial projects mainly in legal services and local and federal advocacy on behalf of needy communities of Washington, D.C.
More importantly, I am a mother who decided that being a mom was more important than working as a lawyer, and so I have been at home for four years now – tending the garden of two little flower buds with a long way to grow (Philip, 3 years and Sam, 1 year). I am fortunate in that I have a very supportive hubby, who handily is a computer techie – hailing from Great Britain – and has spent long hours in the technical construction and support of the website.
SecureMom.com runs for mothers – millions of whom are at risk for poverty. An unfortunate consequence of honorable service to children is that most at-home mothers have performed paid work intermittently and for fewer years than necessary to receive Social Security benefits adequate to support their most elemental needs in old age.
Why worry about retirement now? We all have hubbies and have fashioned a lifestyle that permits us to stay at home at present. I hate saying it, but no one knows what the future might bring on the marital front. Did you know that you have to be married for at least 10 years in order to qualify for the Social Security dependent spouse benefit (to get half of your husband’s earnings-generated benefit)? Moreover, it feels plain wrong that by leaving the workforce we jeopardize our financial security in retirement when we are doing what so many experts and politicians say we should do - staying at home with our children.
Although what mothers do is work, the years that we spend earning little to no income will drag down the average retirement benefit to which we would otherwise be entitled. Full Social Security benefits accrue to those who have worked for thirty five years, and by the year 2030, only four out of ten women will be earning more Social Security benefits based on their own work records than on their spouse's. Depressing!
Besides work for changes in the Social Security laws, we can do some personal financial planning of our own. My website has a few tips on that score, and we plan to add more comprehensive advice in the future. (In fact, we are currently looking for a volunteer with a deep background in that area. Anyone game?)
I am having fun with this website, and would love to work with more moms who have maybe a couple of hours a week to assist in a variety of tasks from writing emails to recruit friends and neighbors to running financial planning seminars for moms in your community. If I may plug my site now – please visit and use our easy on-line ‘Mail Congress’ form to tell Congress to enact legislation to provide earnings credits to at-home moms and other unpaid caregivers. Comments or questions? Please write me at MelodyWebb@SecureMom.com. See you there. Thanks. Melody
copyright (c) 2002 Melody Webb. All rights reserved
This site was last updated 04/12/03