Photo of kids playing on a bicycle.

Here is just some of what decades of research has revealed about poverty’s ill effects on children: lower birth weights and more obesity, diabetes, asthma, anxiety, smoking, depression, and intellectual disabilities, as well as lower college attendance and a greater likelihood of entering the criminal justice system. And then there is the negative fallout if parents, stressed out about money, don’t have healthy interactions with their children or don’t have time for them.  In 2021, as COVID raged and the economy struggled to recover, Congress provided some financial security to parents by adding a few thousand dollars to the monthly amount they received from the longstanding child tax credit. For one year, the credit increased from $2,000 to $3,600 per…

COVID-19 disease cells

In the crucible of COVID, the Medicaid expansion that was part of the Affordable Care Act made a difference to older Americans, who were more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill or hospitalized from the virus. In the states that chose to expand the low- or no-cost Medicaid health insurance program to more of their low-income residents, researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that people between the ages of 45 and 64 were better off financially than similar people in the non-expansion states. “The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of the safety net,” the researchers said, “in improving the economic security of households.” By expanding Medicaid, many states made it easier for individuals to qualify by increasing the income limit…

Happy Fourth! 

Enjoy the July 4th holiday, which is the start to a long summer weekend for many of our readers. And safe travels!  Squared Away will return next Tuesday and Thursday with its regular weekly blogs. Sign up here for our free email to receive each week’s blog posts in your inbox…

July 3, 2024

Unpaid Caregivers are Slipping Through US Safety Net

On Oct. 24, 1975, the women of Iceland went on strike to “demonstrate to ourselves and to others the importance of our role in society.” No going to work. No cooking. No taking care of the children. Stores, fish factories and schools closed as women poured into the streets to demand equality. Some men were forced to take their kids to work or stay home to care for them. Policies enacted over the 50 years since the strike have made Icelandic women’s lives easier. The public day care centers are recognized as among the highest-quality, least expensive in the world, costing single parents and couples only 5 percent of their income, compared with 30 percent here. College is essentially fr…

July 2, 2024

Money and the Momentous Decision to Retire

If other baby boomers and members of Gen-X are like me, they have taken a second, third or even a fifth look at their finances and asked: Will I really be able to retire? The impulse to ruminate over this major decision may be driving the strong interest in recent Squared Away articles on financial topics ranging from whether retirees should continue to be homeowners – not always – to why people sign up for Social Security at age 62 and lock in the smallest monthly check possible under the program’s rules. In “Homeownership in Retirement: an Asset or a Burden?,” researchers found that many retirees carry mortgages they can’t really afford. Having saved so little for their retirement years,…

June 27, 2024

Will Washington State’s Long-term Care Program Survive a Ballot Initiative?

Developing countries all over the world are struggling with the same looming crisis: an aging population and an acute and worsening shortage of family and paid caregivers. Washington State did something about it. The question now is, will its new program to fund services for seniors survive a ballot initiative that would undermine it? In 2019, state lawmakers approved a Social Security-style insurance system requiring employees to contribute 58 cents for every $100 they earn to the WA Cares Fund. But instead of retirement benefits in old age, they will be eligible for $36,500 to subsidize some of their costs for services like home health aides, wheelchairs, assisted living, or even to pay an hourly wage to a family caregiver…

June 25, 2024

NYC’s Asian Poverty Matches Black, Hispanic Poverty

How well off are Asians in this country? It depends on how you look at it. The wealth of a typical U.S. household of Asian descent is $536,000 – or nearly two times the wealth of a typical White household – according to the Federal Reserve’s 2022 Survey of Consumer Finances, the first in its long-running series to report separately on the national data it collects on Asian-Americans and Asian immigrants.  Prominent examples of the country’s wealthiest Asian-Americans include Steve Chen, who co-founded YouTube, which he sold to Google for $1 billion. Jin Sook-Chang made her first billion after starting the fast-fashion retailer Forever 21. And Andy Fang, a co-founder of DoorDash, is one of the world’s youngest billionaires. But…

June 20, 2024

Temporary Disability Insurance Prevents Some Early Retirements

Congress has, for decades, tossed around various proposals for a permanent national paid leave program that would give workers time off for an illness or to care for a sick family member. The idea gained traction during COVID when so many Americans became ill. But none of the proposals have passed amid disagreement over the impact of paid-leave policies. Proponents at the state and federal levels argue that compensating injured or sick workers who take time off allows them to recuperate and eventually get back to work. But others worry that paid leave provides just enough income to pay the bills so workers have time to apply for federal disability and drop out of the labor force permanently. So what…

June 18, 2024

Social Security Particularly Helps Black Retirees

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…

June 13, 2024

Nursing Homes are Far Short of New Staff Requirements

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.”…

June 11, 2024

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