Paid Sick Time Spreading in the COVID Era

The pandemic has done good things for paid sick time. Today, 77 percent of all employees in the private sector get paid time off for short-term illnesses and preventive medical care. That’s a modest four points higher than in 2019 but at least it’s going in the right direction. However, coverage remains low at the bottom of the wage scale where workers are much less likely to have any type of employer benefits. Just 55 percent of workers with earnings in the bottom 25 percent of all workers receive paid sick time, according to a 2022 report by the Economic Policy Institute.  Even their coverage has increased – from 47 percent prior to the pandemic – but they’re still trailing far behind…

November 17, 2022

Traditional Medicare or an Advantage Plan?

Medicare Advantage or traditional Medicare with supplemental insurance: which should you choose? A compelling reason so many 65-year-olds are flocking to Medicare Advantage insurance policies is that they tend to have significantly lower premiums than enrolling directly in traditional Medicare. Retirees are also inundated with advertisements on television, online and in the mail urging them to sign up for the Advantage plans, which sometimes cover vision and dental care. But the premium alone is a superficial test for such a consequential decision. Traditional Medicare plans combined with a Medigap or Part D drug plan might, in the end, be less costly. Differences in the quality of care and the out-of-pocket costs can weigh more heavily over the long haul as…

November 10, 2022

A New Link Between Opioids and Disability

Picture a worker who has an injury so traumatic that he or she is rushed to the emergency room. A doctor prescribes an opioid to ease the pain. A new working paper adds to the growing evidence that taking opioids, even when necessary, can have serious long-term consequences for workers’ career paths. Michael Dworsky at RAND found that workers who received prescription opioids after visiting Colorado emergency rooms were far more likely to enroll in Medicare before turning 65 than people who didn’t get a prescription to treat an injury. Starting Medicare before 65 almost always indicates that someone has left the labor force and is receiving benefits from Social Security Disability Insurance, the primary social program for workers with disabilities. Dworsky…

November 8, 2022

Banks Could be More Retiree Friendly

Anyone who has lived paycheck to paycheck is familiar with the headache of overdraft charges. Due to a slight miscalculation at the end of a tough month, there isn’t enough money in the account to cover a check. The bank pays the check but charges an overdraft fee that drains money out of the account. A negative balance would trigger an overdraft fee on a different check or cause it to bounce. Of course people should manage their finances responsibly. But the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) argues that older people in particular are at a disadvantage, and perhaps banks should put practices in place that protect them from overdrafts, which the CFPB said produce billions in revenue every…

November 3, 2022

How Older Workers Adapt to New Disability

One in four workers who are still healthy in their mid-50s will experience a disability in the next few years that will make working more difficult. Sometimes the disability stems from a sudden medical problem such as a heart attack, but many disabilities are just the accumulated wear and tear on aging bodies or chronic medical conditions that get worse. Whatever the cause, a new study in the journal Research on Aging finds that late-life disabilities often force older workers into early retirement. Nearly three-fourths of the workers who experienced a new disability in their late 50s or early 60s had left the labor force before their full retirement age. Among the people who didn’t have a disability, only a…

November 1, 2022

A Start on Estimating Retiree Medical Costs

New Medicare enrollees can expect their uncertain medical expenses to take roughly $67,000 out of the household budget, on average, over the rest of their lives. Since this estimate is only an average, some retirees will pay less and some will pay much more. And the estimate, revealed in a new brief by Karolos Arapakis at the Center for Retirement Research and based on a larger study, includes only the copayments and cost-sharing charges paid by retired households over 65. It excludes their single largest medical expense – monthly insurance premiums. The estimate is, nevertheless, a useful benchmark for older workers and retirees who want to get a better handle on their health care spending, which is very difficult to…

October 27, 2022

Cut off from Grandkids, Depression Sets in

The purpose of the 2020 restrictions on older people’s activities during COVID – whether voluntary or government enforced – were crucial: keeping them alive as the deadly Delta variant raced through the population worldwide. But saving lives came at the cost of grandparents’ mental health, according to a study in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences about grandparents in England. In the scary early months of the pandemic, grandparents cut off or limited interactions with their grandchildren. In England, the grandparents who isolated themselves suffered more mental health problems, including bouts of depression, than the grandparents who maintained the same amount of contact with grandchildren as they’d had before COVID, the researchers found. This isolation affected grandparents all over t…

October 25, 2022

Yes, White Men’s Career Paths are Different

White men have the most success over the course of their lives in holding on to well-paying jobs that require high-level analytical abilities and interpersonal skills, a new study finds. They have so much success that they often remain in this challenging non-routine work – astronomer, community college instructor, and analyst are examples – well into their 60s and even 70s. This isn’t the case for everyone else. White women and also Asian-American men and women with college degrees also frequently start their careers in positions with demands that are similar to white men. But after they pass their prime working years, this type of work declines, in sharp contrast to white men’s career paths, the researchers found. For example,…

October 20, 2022

Underinsured and Unable to Afford Care

The share of Americans who lack health insurance is at historic lows. Even so, being uninsured and underinsured is a problem. I’ve seen what this means for members of my own family. Example 1: a man in his early 60s with a high-deductible employer plan. His 60-year-old wife, after working for years as a waitress, has had knee surgery and other problems. Each major treatment racks up thousands of dollars in bills they struggle for months to pay. Example 2: a 62-year-old woman working as a low-wage independent contractor. She is uninsured and has painful arthritis. She frequently cancels jobs because she is sick. Example 3: a construction worker also in his 60s with a high insurance deductible. He rarely goes…

October 18, 2022

Beware: a New Government Imposter Scam

It is a cruel farce. Scammers use the names of federal agencies charged with protecting citizens’ financial security to rip them off. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has confirmed the existence of a new scam in which someone purporting to be from the agency contacts individuals and tells them they are eligible for a payout in a class-action lawsuit. On one condition: to collect the money, the scammer says the taxes owed must be paid upfront. This is known as an imposter scam. Imposter scams involving other federal agencies – the IRS or the Social Security Administration – are common. The CFPB imposter scam sounds vaguely credible since the story the victim is told is similar to the agency’s…

October 13, 2022

How Eager are Employers to Hire Boomers?

Older Americans’ share of the labor force has doubled since the early 1990s, and they constitute roughly one in four workers today. But their dominance is mainly an artifact of the baby boomers’ demographic bulge moving through the labor force and says little about how employers view the growing ranks of aging workers. Employers’ willingness to hire or retain older workers, especially when someone younger is available, is an important issue for a couple related reasons. Boomers are under increasing pressure to work as long as possible to improve their finances before retiring. It’s also easier for many to work well into their 60s since people are living longer and technological advances have reduced the physical requirements for some types…

October 11, 2022

One Reason the US Labor Force is Shrinking

U.S. industries have become increasingly concentrated in the 21st century, leaving fewer employers in local labor markets. This is not good for workers. The simplest example is a town with one company in the business of producing widgets. The company has little competition when hiring widget workers and can pay them lower wages. A new study finds that the increase in employer concentration – one or a few firms that dominate locally – has played a role in the 20-year decline in labor force participation in the United States. When workers have fewer employment options and wages are lower, looking for and finding a job is a more difficult, less fruitful pursuit. Some give up and drop out of t…

October 6, 2022