CFS RDRC Awarded Third Year of Funding to Support Research on Financial Vulnerability

U.S. Social Security Administration approves 11 major projects, investigating topics including vulnerability to Social Security scams, identity theft among seniors, older Americans’ changing work, and the impact of employment shocks.

The Center for Financial Security (CFS) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, as part of the Retirement and Disability Research Consortium (RDRC), has been awarded a third year of funding from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). One of just four RDRC centers in the country supported by SSA, UW–Madison’s is the only one to focus specifically on the financial well-being of economically vulnerable families, older people, people with disabilities, low-wealth households, and children.

“I’m proud of what our center has accomplished in its first two years of operation and how we have supported our understanding of economic security, especially among the most vulnerable people in our country,” says CFS Faculty Director Dr. J. Michael Collins, the Fetzer Family Chair in Consumer and Personal Science at the School of Human Ecology and Professor at the La Follette School of Public Affairs. “This next slate of projects promises to continue to deliver on that goal, and with the pandemic exacerbating hardship for millions of families across the U.S., the need could not be more urgent.” 

This year’s award funds 11 major research studies, including several led by University of Wisconsin faculty. In addition, the funding renews support for four research fellowships and for the Junior Scholars in Training (JSIT) program, which instructs and mentors early-career researchers and junior faculty in the retirement and disability fields. CFS will also support translational research and dissemination for the next year, including collaborations with policymakers and practitioners nationally, as well as seminars and conferences to share research results.

The RDRC is an extramural research collaboration. Researchers and projects receiving funding within the CFS RDRC for 2020-2021 are below with UW System researchers bolded. 

  • Nancy Wong (UW–Madison), Lydia Ashton (UW–Madison): Using Online SSDI Conversations to Improve Communication and Outreach 
  • Michal Engelman (UW–Madison), Won-tak Joo (UW–Madison): Retirement in the Context of Intergenerational Transfers 
  • Stephen Wendel (Behavioral Technology), Cliff Robb (UW–Madison): Interventions to Combat Social Security Scams 
  • John Nunley (UW–La Crosse), R. Alan Seals (Auburn University): The Changing Task Content of Jobs for Older Workers 
  • Isaac Swenson (Montana State University), Carly Urban (Montana State University): The Effects of Expanding Access to Mental Health Treatment on SS(D)I Applications and Awards  
  • Pamela Herd (Georgetown University), Sebastian Jilke (Georgetown University), Donald Monyihan (Georgetown University): Improving Public Understanding of OASI:  An Experimental Approach  
  • Stephanie Moulton (Ohio State University), Donald Haurin (Ohio State University), Caezilia Loibl (Ohio State University), Joshua Joseph (Ohio State University): Economic Security in Retirement: Does Borrowing from Home Equity Moderate the Impact of a Health Shock on Health Outcomes?  
  • Yulya Truskinovsky (Wayne State University): Employment Shocks, Unemployment Insurance and Caregiving
  • Patricia Boyle (Rush University Medical Center), Lei Yu (Rush University Medical Center), Gary Mottola (FINRA): Epidemiologic Study of the Correlates of Scam Susceptibility, Financial Exploitation, and Fraud in Older Adults 
  • Chris Herbet (Harvard University), Samara Scheckle (Harvard University), Jennifer Molinsky (Harvard University): Spending on Health Among Older Adults Before and After Mortgage Payoff 
  • Marti DeLiema (University of Minnesota), Lynn Langston (RTI International), David Burnes (University of Toronto): Consequences and Response to Identity Theft Victimization among Older Americans 

For abstracts of these projects, please visit

The University of Wisconsin–Madison Center for Financial Security Retirement and Disability Research Center is an applied research program which develops evidence that can assist policymakers, the public, and the media in understanding issues in Social Security, retirement, and disability policy, especially related to economically vulnerable populations. The CFS RDRC incorporates diversity of viewpoints and disciplines, develops diverse emerging scholars, and generates research findings that are used in policy and practice.