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Homeowners nearing retirement have 40 percent of their wealth tied up in their homes. But to what extent do racial disparities in employment affect workers’ ability to hold on to a home and build up that wealth? This question is at the heart of an ambitious study of U.S. homeowners that digs into whether stable homeownership – or, rather, a lack of it – contributes to the longstanding gaps in retirement wealth between Blacks and Hispanics and wealthier White retirees. The researchers find that the racial disparities in homeowners’ finances while they are working continue after they retire and start collecting Social Security. And Black and Hispanic workers’ employment histories, and specifically their higher chances of having been laid off,…

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This blog usually focuses on the financial side of retirement. But if you’re not preparing emotionally and socially – and many boomers aren’t – retirement will be a bumpy ride.   Riley Moynes, a writer and public speaker, issues this warning in the video that appears below. But he also offers sound advice on how to smooth things out. The advice is dispensed in his descriptions of the four phases of retirement: vacation, loss, experimentation, and the reward. He arrived at these phases after interviewing dozens of retirees. The vacation is the fun part. At least that’s the stereotype for older workers who are eager to give up the pressures of work and a rigid schedule and look forward to…

Shopping for Assisted Living is an Opaque Experience

An advocate for improving care and federal oversight in assisted living facilities succinctly described the experience of searching for a safe place for a loved one. “The assisted living sector operates under a caveat emptor – let the buyer beware – principle,” Richard Mollot, executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, told the Senate Committee on Aging in January. His testimony about the lack of transparency in the fastest-growing segment of the long-term care industry provided the context for the discomfiting feeling I had last year when shopping for assisted living for my elderly mother. Mollot’s and other experts’ testimony gave me a better understanding of why I felt that way. As part of the Senate committee’s fact-finding…

February 15, 2024

Medicare Advantage Reigns. So Who Still Buys Medigap?

Low premiums, aggressive marketing and extras like dental care and prescription drugs have propelled Medicare Advantage plans to half of the retiree insurance market. Nevertheless, some people still prefer traditional Medicare combined with Medigap insurance.    Medigap buyers on average use $12,200 in medical care annually –  $2,300 more than everyone else on Medicare – according to the first known study to capture all sources of spending over many years, including Medicare payments, the retirees’ out-of-pocket deductibles, copayments and coinsurance for tests and care, and payments by insurers and other public programs. (Premiums are excluded from the estimate.) Since Medigap buyers spend more, a logical supposition is that they are less healthy. But the researchers found that they are actually healthier than…

February 13, 2024

Rising House Prices in COVID Still Cause Sticker Shock

If you want to find a place where houses remain affordable, try Syracuse, New York. It’s a college town, so it’s probably a nice place to live. Syracuse is the only large U.S. city where the cost of a typical home is less than three times the household income of residents in that area, according to a new report by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. U.S. News & World Report named it one of the top places to live, and a big reason was affordability. “Price-to-income ratios that low were the norm across much of the country in prior decades,” the center explained. But no longer. The ratios are at their highest levels since the 1970s.  In 2022, 48 of…

February 8, 2024

People with Disabilities Were More Cautious in COVID

Although no one was left untouched by COVID’s devastation, people with disabilities engaged in cautious behaviors far longer than people without disabilities, according to Mathematica research contrasting the shift in attitudes about the pandemic over time. Earlier studies by other researchers have shown that people with disabilities who contracted COVID had higher rates of hospitalization and mortality than people without disabilities. Americans with intellectual disabilities had the second-highest COVID death rate, after the elderly, among those who were hospitalized. If they had developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, or Down syndrome, comorbid medical conditions made them more susceptible to COVID-related mortality. People with any type of disability had longer hospital stays, and their risk of readmission was higher.   In 2020, most…

February 6, 2024

Giving a Financial Lift to Grandparents Caring for a Child

For myriad reasons, the 2 million older Americans who are raising their grandchildren get very little help in the form of government assistance. They tend to be from disadvantaged Black and Hispanic communities and are often taking care of the children because the parents are in jail, abusing drugs, or deceased. But the grandparents usually can’t get foster care, housing or other state assistance or Social Security’s dependent child benefit if they don’t adopt the child and become the legal guardian. A new study finds that easing up on the eligibility restrictions for Social Security’s dependent child benefit that is linked to the grandparent’s retirement or disability benefits would greatly improve their financial security. The typical Black grandparent household would…

February 1, 2024

When COVID Aid Stopped, Millions of Children Lost Out

To gauge how much the federal government’s COVID assistance helped the nation’s disadvantaged children, consider what happened after the relief stopped. Millions of low-income children have lost their health insurance and the COVID tax relief that had lifted their families out of poverty. In March 2020, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which, among other provisions, barred state Medicaid programs from dropping adults and children from their public health insurance rolls. One year later, with the virus still raging, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan to provide another form of support: temporarily increasing the child tax credit and expanding it to include more low-income families. Both provisions have expired, and the impact is now being tallied…

January 30, 2024

The Psychology Behind Starting Social Security at 62

Social Security supplies a substantial share, and often the majority, of a retiree’s income. For these older workers delaying signing up for their benefits is often a smart strategy. For every year they wait, the delay will increase the size of their monthly checks by 7 percent or more. But, as researchers Suzanne Shu and John Payne point out in a newly published study, that is not what many people do. They explored the reasons so many sign up soon after they turn 62 and become eligible. They also may have found a way to present information about benefits that helps workers make the smarter choice. Another important reason people sign up sooner is the natural human aversion to losing,…

January 25, 2024

Employers Shift Retiree Coverage to Medicare Advantage

If you retired in 1988 from a job at a large employer with health insurance, you had good odds you would continue to be covered into old age. Two-thirds of large employers that covered their current workers continued to insure them after they retired. The odds today are not so good: just one in five large employers extends insurance to former employees. Covering retired workers is expensive, and a growing number of companies are unwilling to pay for it. Among the employers that still do, a development has been afoot that may be limiting the options available to their former workers. The employers and unions that still offer health benefits to retirees are increasingly rolling out Medicare Advantage plans to…

January 23, 2024

Married Women are Upwardly Mobile. Singles – not so Much

Birth is a sort of lottery. Babies may be born into wealth and privilege, poverty and struggle, or something in between. The question is whether, when they grow up, they will choose an occupation that improves on their parents’ circumstances. In other words, how upwardly mobile are they? Doing better financially than one’s parents is an essential part of the proverbial American Dream. A historical study of U.S. mobility from generation to generation finds that upward mobility largely followed the same upward path for the married men and women born between 1835 and 1915. Growing economic opportunity gave them both fairly strong chances of surpassing what their fathers did for a living. The reason married men’s and married women’s mobility…

January 18, 2024

Many Barriers Hinder Rural Use of Government Programs­­­

Older Americans, low-income workers, and people with disabilities are over-represented in remote areas of the country. But rural enrollment in federal and state programs tends to be low, creating a shortage of government services where they are critically needed. One source of the problem is the numerous barriers to getting information about, and enrolling in, programs like Social Security disability and retirement benefits, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Medicaid health insurance program for workers with very low incomes. Researchers recently conducted a systematic review of studies, newspaper articles and government reports published between 2012 and 2022 to get a better sense of why access to government assistance is more difficult for rural residents. Two of the many examples…

January 16, 2024