United Way: Resources to Support Senior Financial Stability
Updated on Oct 15 2019
United Way is preparing Washington state for the Silver Tsunami of aging baby boomers in many ways; including offering services to help seniors prepare for retirement, access employment, regain stability from a crisis, access free tax and legal service and prevent homelessness.
The sentiment: ‘Find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life’ rings true for 71-years-young Rodney Wheeler. Wheeler is a Development Officer at United Way of King County and he has played a big role in helping the nonprofit grow and succeed in Washington. Wheeler comments:
“Working for United Way has been the happiest time of my life. It’s where I’m at my best, where I most enjoy my work and where I can provide the greatest help to people and the community. I believe that if you do what you love, you will do it well and support will follow. I enjoy nonprofit work because I enjoy people. I have the opportunity to meet people, and it enriches my life and I am always learning from them.”
As VP for Development, Wheeler helped grow the King County chapter from $34 million to $93 million dollars over the course of his 11-year tenure there. The King County United Way became the largest in the country. He participated in a ‘golden age’of philanthropy in King County and enjoyed working with many influential people, including Bill Gates Senior.
Along with many wonderful causes, United Way has served King County’s senior population through the agencies funded by United Way – especially the aging baby boomer population.
Services United Way Provides to the Senior Population
There are many senior Americans who haven’t saved for retirement, so a good portion of United Way funding supports ending homelessness and building financial stability for people who, among others, are age 55 and older. Wheeler disclosed:
“Many people are struggling because they unfortunately didn’t’ do a good job preparing for their futures. We [United Way] recently did our annual one-night count, to count the homeless population in Seattle. Some big takeaways from the count was that chronic homelessness has dramatically increased 28 percent from 2017.”
United Way is trying to educate the general public and the senior population on the importance of financial preparation and retirement planning; but is also providing housing and other assistance. Here are some of the strategic endeavors United Way has been tackling to help the senior population:
- 50,000 older adults will have access to nutritious food
- 500 older adults are prevented from being homeless
- 250 older adults gain access to employment
- 21,000 older adults experiencing a crisis will regain or maintain stability
- 2,787 older adults will access shelter
- 5,000 older adults will access free tax preparation service
- 250 older adults will access legal services
- 2,000 adults will move out of homelessness or maintain permanent housing
The nonprofit works in three major pillars:
- Helping Students Graduate
- Keeping Families Financially Stable
- Ensuring People Have Homes
As far as the aging population, Wheeler notes that “we provide seniors resources mainly within the pillars of keeping families stable and helping prevent homelessness with resources like our tax-free program. We provide options that wouldn’t otherwise be there for seniors in need.”
United Way continues to support seniors in the priority areas:
- Ending homelessness
- Building financial stability
23.7 percent of people in King County are 55+, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – and if you look at older adults living in poverty, that number is 18 percent. In 2016, 20 percent of the people United Way served were 55 and older, and that number continues to increase as the population ages.
Advice to the Aging Population
Financial preparation and goal setting are key when it comes to retirement planning and building a successful future. Wheeler provides perspective on why America is lacking when it comes to saving for retirement:
“There are three things you can do with your money: 1. Save, 2. Spend, and 3. Share. The balance is what is important. In China, many people save 80 percent of their money, and in the U.S. many people spend 80 percent of their money.”
It’s no secret that America is a consumerist culture. Financial education and strategic implementation are crucial to educate not only the aging population, but also the younger population. Wheeler plans to “lead by example and focus on the future and his children and grandchildren – his legacy” when it comes to financial preparation.
We think he’s doing a pretty good job in his role at United Way and we’re guessing thousands would agree.
About Rodney Wheeler:
Rodney Wheeler is a native of Asheville, North Carolina, and graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in communications and journalism.
After working for several years as a broadcast journalist in radio and television, Rodney joined United Way and during a 27-year career, served with United Way organizations in North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, New York City and Seattle and with United Way of America as its Director of Fund-Raising Programs. He has also worked to support public education with the Alliance for Education and has served on numerous non-profit boards including Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Women’s Funding Alliance, Rotary International, Wing Luke Asian Museum and Schools First.
Most recently, Rodney taught English in Hangzhou, China for 8 years. Upon returning to Seattle, he rejoined United Way of King County as a development officer on the Individual Giving Team.
Besides loving sports, travel and good food, Rodney enjoys his family and loves being a dad. As a single parent, Rodney successfully raised two daughters from his first marriage and was named “Solo Parent of the Year” by the Solo Parenting Alliance “Father of the Year” from the National Father’s Day Council.
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