Catherine Collinson ’85 Provides Financial Literacy Advice Following WISER Hero Award Recognition

The Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) celebrated 20 years as an organization dedicated to the education and advocacy at improving the long-term financial quality of life for women.

In September 2016, WISER honored Catherine Collinson ’85 with an annual Hero Award for her work in financial literacy research. Catherine, who currently serves as the president of Transamerica Institute and the nonprofit foundation Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, was one of nine individuals honored in Washington, D.C.

Catherine pursued her passions as an English major at Scripps. Following graduation, Catherine began her career as a technical writer and eventually found a role at Disney. There, she combined her interests in writing and project management, remaining at the company for nine years. During this time, Catherine earned an MBA from the University of California Irvine and made the transition to Transamerica where she has been for 21 years.

“I never dreamed I would be doing this today,” Catherine said. Transamerica has been an organization filled with opportunities. In 2007, Catherine pitched the idea for her current role as president of Transamerica Institute and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. The new role allows for expanded research and outreach opportunities. Catherine’s success with the nonprofit foundation contributed to the honor.

Catherine received the Hero Award for being “a champion for Americans who are at risk of not achieving a financially secure retirement.” She expressed gratitude for the recognition and highlighted the unique community at Scripps College as a springboard for her career. Through much of her early career, Catherine emphasized that women were often invisible in the classroom. She adds, “There has been progress in the world, but the glass ceiling still exists. I believe in the future of women, offering opportunities to increase their potential.”

In a 300-page Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies report, there were some disparities between men and women concerning their retirement outlook. Information is based on a Harris Poll survey of 4,161 U.S. workers:

  • Among boomers, women have saved nearly $109,000, compared to $211,000 for men. These numbers are estimated medians
  • 72% of women are currently saving for retirement, compared to 80% of men who are saving
  • 75% of women who are offered a 401k, or comparable plan, are participating, compared to 79% of men
  • Women who participate in a 401k, or comparable plan, contribute around 6% of their annual salary, compared to men who contribute nearly 10%
  • 56% of women are involved in monitoring their retirement accounts, compared to 70% of men

Catherine’s goal is to enhance financial literacy education, particularly women. She starts with this advice and is a resource for women and men of all ages who are looking to enhance their financial stability:

  • Begin by setting small goals in creating a strong financial future. Women, in particular, should not be afraid to seek out support.
  • Learn how to speak about finances in a conceptual way. This comes from continued education on retirement and personal finances.
  • Begin by calculating how much you need to save for retirement. Here’s one example of a basic retirement need calculator:
  • Create a “rainy day” fund and an emergency savings fund. About a quarter of individuals will make an early withdrawal from their retirement. Having a back-up emergency account will help to avoid early withdrawal fees.
  • Live within or beneath your means. Also, don’t be afraid to take risks in order to advance your career.
  • Have an open heart, open mind. Opportunities may turn into something great over time.

You can find more information on WISER and the 2016 Hero Awards on their program page.