Valerie Coleman Morris, a former broadcaster who will be leading seminar on planning for retirement. Photo:

The last few years have been tough on retirement savings.

Finding and keeping a job has been a challenge for many. Those who were laid off had to dip into their 401K plans just to survive. Home values — which often served as the backbone of a retirement plan – have plunged in value. Low interest rates, market volatility, and rising health care costs make saving for retirement even more complicated.

A survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute shows that 56% of workers have saved less than $25,000, according to USA Today.

“People are frightened, confused and scared about their prospects for retirement in today’s economy amid changing rules” said Valerie Coleman Morris, a former CNN financial journalist. “In order to plan for tomorrow, you must understand your options for today.”

Morris and Mary Beth Frankin, a contributing editor at InvestmentNews, will be discussing how to plan for retirement at an all-day seminar on Friday, April 27. Financing the New Retirement: A One Day Seminar for Changing Economic Times, is being sponsored by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a continuing education program for people over 55. Situated at UC Berkeley, OLLI  offers courses, lectures, special events year-round for older adults.

Susan Hoffman, the director of OLLI, recently interviewed Valerie Coleman Morris about the retirement seminar:

Valerie, many Bay Area residents remember you as a  journalist with KRON-TV and KGO-TV, and later from CNN as the finance correspondent and business anchor. What brought you to finance?

I was hired by CNN not because I was an economist, Wall Street broker or financial analyst. I was hired for my ability to speak to people and communicate with them in a way my audiences believe is in their best interest. That’s what I’ve done on air as a television journalist for 40+ years: come into peoples’ homes and intimate places and speak the truth: truth is my capital.

You have been an advocate for financial literacy. What does that mean and why is taking your money personally so important?

Financial literacy is having enough knowledge of financial matters to confidently make decisions that will meet and fulfill one’s own personal goals by responsibly managing income and assets. Taking your money personally is very important because your needs and goals are unique. Becoming and staying financially literate (it’s journey not a destination) is a life-long commitment to being responsible about adjusting money habits to (your) life’s variables (birth, death, marriage, divorce, job loss, relocation).

With these changing times, retirement is being redefined at the same time as the economy is in flux. How will your seminar address this?

People are frightened, confused and scared about their prospects for retirement in today’s economy amid changing rules. In order to plan for tomorrow, you must understand your options for today. This seminar will help attendees identify what they understand about saving for retirement, what they don’t understand and where outside help may be needed.

Who will benefit from this seminar?

People who are approaching retirement and those who are already retired. The five years before retiring and the first five years after retiring are often referred to as “the red zone” — the critical time to adjust or recover from money decisions.

What can people expect to take away from this day-long seminar?

The tools to make retirement work for them; concrete ways to evaluate their retirement savings and resources; and new financial products and strategies to help them make their money last a lifetime. It’s a great opportunity to raise awareness about the need for improving financial literacy.

For more information about Financing the New Retirement: A One Day Seminar for Changing Economic Times, visit Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

To find out about more events in Berkeley and nearby, check out Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...