COVID Tested Resilience of Older Americans

Resilience – financial, emotional, and in the form of family and community support – was sorely tested when COVID-19 turned lives upside down. In a study of workers and retirees 50 and older, the people who lived alone or with extended family struggled the most in the first year of COVID to make the financial adjustments required to get through the economic slump. And due to their age, they had the added challenge of dealing with chronic health conditions or physical impairments when medical and personal services were out of reach. Researchers at Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies used a variety of ways to gauge their resilience and identify where that resilience broke down in 2020. The study describes…

April 18, 2023

Work’s Getting Easier for Most Older Workers

Technology has had a profound impact on how we work. Changes in what employers expect from an aging workforce reflect that evolution – and the changes have largely been positive.  Americans in their late 50s and early 60s increasingly are holding jobs that require them to be highly trained or college educated to take on the cognitive tasks the positions require. Occupations such as sales, production, laborer, and repair have given way to technical and professional employment, according to the Urban Institute’s in-depth analysis of U.S. occupational data. But while the mix of jobs in the economy has clearly changed, the more significant change underway has occurred within specific occupations, the researchers said. Older workers find that all kinds of…

April 13, 2023

Negotiating the Medigap-Advantage Maze

Choosing a Medicare option is one of the biggest decisions baby boomers make. Nearly half of U.S. retirees today have Medicare Advantage policies – that’s double the market share just 15 years ago. The reason for Advantage plans’ popularity is their low monthly premiums. But as enrollment surges, some of our blog readers who signed up for the plans have complaints. Advantage plans are complete insurance policies that operate much like employer health plans with copayments and deductibles. They have been heavily criticized for becoming increasingly profitable and costly for the federal Medicare program, which reimburses insurers for retirees’ care. And retirees complain that they can’t go to any doctor or hospital they like. They are talking about Advantage plans…

April 11, 2023

A Personality Trait Tied to Stock Investing

Researchers have tried and failed to fully understand why so many people are unwilling to plunge into the stock market and ride the ups and downs of an investment that pays off over the long haul. A new study finally lands on something that has the power to affect how people invest: personality. In fact, personality is as good at explaining investment decisions as the sex, age, income, wealth, and education of individuals combined, said researchers at Northwestern, DePaul University, and the London School of Economics. They examined the Big 5 personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Openness and neuroticism have the most influence on stock investing – with opposite effects. On the other hand, agreeableness, characterized by…

April 6, 2023

Employers Will Pay More to Avoid Flextime

Workers love flexible schedules. Employers, it seems, do not share their warm feelings. Employers said they’d be willing to pay substantially more – 20 percent to 60 percent more – to a worker who is willing to accept only a limited amount of scheduling flexibility or a rigid schedule, according to the preliminary findings of a new RAND study. This research is fairly unusual, because most of the studies of working arrangements have looked at employees’ preferences. And they show a clear preference for setting their own schedules or avoiding last-minute scheduling, an unpopular practice many retailers have adopted. In this study, David Powell and Jeffrey Wenger at RAND conducted an experiment to look at the flip side of t…

April 4, 2023

Mortgage Rejections Surge after Age 50

You’re over 50. You have built up a lot of equity in your home, and your life savings is finally gaining some critical mass. And yet, your odds of being rejected for a refinancing mortgage start going up rapidly after age 50 and really accelerate around 70, according to a study by Natee Amornsiripanitch at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. This evidence, concludes a recent summary of the study, “is large and robust.” The research has important implications for older workers trying to prepare financially for retirement or retirees planning to change their living arrangements. Higher rejection rates can throw a wrench into refinancing an existing mortgage, cashing out some home equity, and possibly downsizing to a less expensive home. Yes, rejecting borrowers…

March 30, 2023

Older US Workers of Color at a Disadvantage

As workers age, poor health or disabling physical conditions can interfere with holding down a job. Sometimes people are forced to quit working if things get really rough, whether they’re ready to retire or not. But race also figures into this predicament, because workers of color are already in poorer health and tend to have more vulnerable employment situations than White workers. A new study compares what’s it’s like to be an older Black, Hispanic or Asian person who is trying to keep working in two countries with similar cultures: the United States and England. The United States does not come out on top. The building blocks for this research are basic comparisons of White and minority workers’ health and…

March 28, 2023

Remote Work Didn’t Recede with Pandemic

The remote work necessitated by COVID may be here to stay in five English-speaking countries from Australia to the United States. That’s the conclusion from a study of 250 million online job ads – nearly half of them in this country. The number of postings in January that offered remote work for one or more days per week was three to five times larger than the remote work positions advertised on the cusp of the pandemic in 2019. Notably, their numbers increased sharply last year as COVID was retreating. The countries in the study are: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The United Kingdom has the largest share of positions advertising remote work – 18 percent. T…

March 23, 2023

COVID’s Toll on Minorities with Disabilities

It’s been well documented that the COVID recession and layoffs in 2020 were particularly hard on Black, Hispanic, and Latino Americans. But if they had a disabling physical and medical condition, they felt it much more. In a new study examining the cumulative impact of having a disability combined with the disadvantages of being an older minority worker or retiree,  the racial disparities were apparent on a variety of fronts – in the inability to pay for essentials, at work, and through some difficulty obtaining medical care. Past research has shown that once the pandemic hit, people with disabilities, who tend to have lower incomes, had an even tougher time financially than in the years prior to COVID. The racia…

March 21, 2023

Racial Disparities Exist in Long-term Care

The types of long-term care located in various communities are largely driven by what their oldest residents can afford. This has created stark differences in what’s available to White and minority retirees, a new study finds. Assisted living facilities, despite the high cost, have been the fastest-growing part of the long-term care industry over the past 20 years. In the cities and suburbs, where the vast majority of Americans live, more of these facilities are located in predominantly White communities. Adult day care centers, at less than half the price of assisted living, have also expanded but are concentrated in communities of color. The research also revealed that bank redlining has contributed to the racial disparities. Historic discrimination in mortgag…

March 16, 2023

Homelessness: Can You Pass this Quiz?

Do you know the main reason Americans slip into homelessness? Are you aware of the roots of this longstanding crisis? The best way to counter negative views of homelessness is to develop a better understanding of why it exists and who it affects. The Urban Institute has put together a quick quiz to explore an issue that people with secure jobs and comfortable housing don’t think much about – and might prefer not to think about. The federal government’s latest estimate of the homeless population makes clear that little progress has been made in reducing it, despite many communities’ efforts to address it. On a single night in January 2022, 582,462 people were homeless and either living on the streets or in homeless shelters…

March 14, 2023

Post-COVID, View of Nursing Homes Erodes

COVID has moved from a central place in our lives to a risk that, while still important to heed, has moved out of the foreground. One thing we will not forget, however, is COVID’s toll on nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, where the virus has killed more than 200,000 older Americans and staff. The tragedy also played out in nursing homes in Canada, where the deaths received high-profile coverage in the news media, just as they did in this country. A survey of Canadians at the end of 2020, while COVID was still raging, indicates that the pandemic caused major changes in their thinking about old age. The reaction of a majority of people in their 50s and 60s to…

March 9, 2023