Older African-American man sitting on a couch

A new study finds that Social Security is more valuable to Black retirees than to Whites – despite the fact that Blacks have shorter lives and receive monthly benefits for fewer years of retirement. The main reason Black retirees get more value from the program boils down to something that is crucial for a true understanding of why Social Security is so important to all retirees: the guarantee of having a monthly payment for life when it’s impossible to predict how long any individual retiree will live. This unpredictability is known as longevity risk, and even though Blacks tend to die younger than Whites, they also have more longevity risk. This simply means there is a bigger dispersion between t…

Photo of a nursing home

Workers in the nation’s nursing homes have the inside story, and the staff shortages they describe are not pretty. “Lack of enough staff has put many of my residents at risk for falls, bed sores, and much more,” said a certified nurse’s aide with 20 years of experience, who wrote in support of new federal regulations that set minimum staffing levels. “I truly feel horrible for the [residents] when they have to wait for sometimes over an hour just to get assistance because everybody is so busy,” said another worker. In response to the high death toll in nursing homes during COVID, the Biden administration followed through on its promise to “crack down on nursing homes that endanger resident safety.”…

The Great Recession and COVID: a Study in Contrast

The Great Recession is nearly gone from our collective memory. But for the people who lost a house to foreclosure in the subprime mortgage scam, the recession is still affecting their finances. The house is typically a worker’s largest asset. But 15 years after the foreclosure wave, the homeownership rate for the victims of foreclosure remains well below the rate for people who were in a similar financial position at the time but managed to hold on to their properties. And although credit scores have improved for the 1.8 million homeowners who were foreclosed on annually between 2007 and 2013, they remain suppressed, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports. Their typical credit score is 700, compared with t…

June 6, 2024

Center for Retirement Research Partners with UMass Boston

To bring a broader perspective to issues affecting retirement and aging, the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) at Boston College is working with the Gerontology Institute and other researchers at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The five-year arrangement is supporting research projects by UMass Boston researchers in collaboration with CRR and is funding summer research fellowships for UMass Boston undergraduates. “UMass Boston’s expertise in qualitative research techniques such as focus groups infuse their work with the perspectives of underserved communities,” said Andrew Eschtruth, deputy director of CRR, which also supports this blog. The partnership’s activities are funded by the U.S. Social Security Administration. The collaboration with UMass Boston, Eschtruth said, fits with the agency’s goal of broadening the network of…

June 4, 2024

Artists with Loads of Talent – and a Disability

The Creative Growth art center was founded 50 years ago in Oakland, Calif., to provide the space and materials artists with disabilities need for their work. This wonderful PBS NewsHour video tells the story of how their paintings, sculptures, and video installations went on display at the prestigious San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, or SF MOMA for short. As for why their art is being exhibited, it’s all about the high quality of the work. In fact, SF MOMA has purchased more than 100 works of art from Creative Growth, reports the NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown. “Is this a disabled artists’ exhibition, or is this an exhibition by artists with disabilities? We tend to lead with the art,” said Tom…

May 30, 2024

Social Security’s Representative Payees: Time for a Tune-up

What the heck is a representative payee? Social Security approves a family member or, less frequently, an organization to receive benefits on behalf of an individual who is old and infirm or has a disability. The representative is required to ensure that the benefits are being used to meet the needs of the person in their care. To gauge how well the program is working, Travis Labrum at the University of Pittsburgh conducted lengthy telephone interviews with five people with a mental illness who receive their benefits through a family member and with seven family members acting in that official role. He said that two out of three people who have family representatives managing their finances said they are fairly…

May 28, 2024

Early Evidence of COVID’s Toll on Disability Community

Fewer people with disabilities applied for federal benefits during COVID. The main reason for the drop could’ve been anything from the ease of working at home to evade the virus to the difficulty of applying after Social Security closed its field offices during the pandemic. But fewer applicants does not point to progress. In fact, COVID caused a disproportionate increase in the death rate in the disability community and also attracted younger and possibly sicker applicants with work-limiting conditions to the federal disability programs, according to University of Colorado researcher Lauren Nicholas. Since her findings apply only to the pandemic’s first year, they also raise questions about the longer-term impacts if COVID and related medical conditions continue to bring in…

May 23, 2024

Cell, Internet Subsidy Helps Low-Income Workers, Retirees

It is virtually impossible to function in the modern world without a computer or cell phone and broadband. But paying the monthly cell or cable bill can be a stretch for low-income workers and retirees. Congress recognized the importance of having access to the Internet during COVID’s months-long isolation, passing a $1.4 billion program to subsidize broadband. That program, which is run by the FCC, is running out of money. But a more modest federal program in existence since the 1980s, Lifeline, is still in operation. Lifeline subsidizes up to $9.25 per month for cell or Internet service. This is one-third the size of the COVID subsidy that’s expiring. But every little bit helps. Three groups are eligible. Workers and…

May 21, 2024

White-Black 401k Gap Widens for the Old and the Rich

The stark difference in Black and White workers’ wealth is old news. But now we have some fresh information about the wealth gap: it grows as people age and move through their retirement years. The most striking deterioration in Blacks’ relative standing can be seen in non-housing wealth. This mainly consists of 401(k)-style plans and savings and investment accounts and does not include the wealth inherent in retirees’ Social Security or employer pensions. Owning a house is another form of wealth. The White homeownership rate is consistently above 80 percent until retirees reach their advanced years. The Black homeownership rate ranges from 60 to 70 percent for older workers and retirees, and since Black workers tend to buy less expensiv…

May 16, 2024

Medigap and the One-Way-Street Problem

If a 65-year-old signs up for a Medigap policy but decides a year or two later that the premiums are too high, the new retiree can easily switch to an Advantage policy with a low premium. But if, after starting retirement with Advantage, he wants to switch to a more flexible Medigap policy, he could run into problems. A federal rule requires insurance companies that sell Medigap to accept all 65-year-olds – but only when they are new to Medicare. No rejecting new retirees for pre-existing conditions. No charging a higher premium because they are sicker. But once that initial period lapses, Medigap insurers can reject applicants for all kinds of health reasons. This one-way street “detracts from the ability…

May 14, 2024

Retirement is Filled with Surprises – Good and Bad

In a new survey asking retirees what surprised them about being retired, the big winner – for 43 percent – was how much they’re enjoying it. The rest of the survey indicates that the freedom that comes with leaving the labor force often serves to leaven the considerable sacrifices some have to make for financial reasons. One in four retired households, for example, agree they are “forced to live more frugally than we wanted,” and one in 10 said they’re “spending their nest egg too fast,” according to the survey, fielded in 2023 by Hearts & Wallets, which provides data to the financial industry. I also suspect that one pleasant surprise – having more income than when they were working…

May 9, 2024

Late-career Injuries Come at a Steep Cost

About one in four workers in their 50s and early 60s has a physical or medical condition that limits their ability to work. These impairments can upend retirement plans and force them to make financial sacrifices if they have to apply for disability or sign up early for Social Security. A new research study that looks at four types of injuries – on- versus off-the-job and chronic versus less severe – confirms that they have a dramatic impact on older workers’ earnings and career paths. Start with whether they can continue to work. Older workers who develop an impairment often leave their jobs immediately, regardless of the nature of the impairment, according to the study, which focused on people who…

May 7, 2024