Retirees Share Experiences with Social Security Sign-up

By the time Millennials and Generation Z retire, signing up for Social Security online will no doubt be second nature. It’s been a little rockier for the less technologically adept baby boomers. To get a read on retiring boomers’ experiences, the U.S. Social Security Administration funded a survey designed by Jean-Pierre Aubry at the Center Retirement Research. The survey asked the boomers to rate their satisfaction with the process of claiming their benefits online or through direct contact with the agency’s local field offices and telephone customer service. The retirees gave the agency high ratings overall. On a scale of 1 to 10, the vast majority reported a score of 8 or more. And the average score given by thos…

January 11, 2024

High School Students Reach Out to Retirees

The pandemic had a silver lining. We all learned the importance of social interaction to our mental health and well-being. That’s why recent efforts by high school students to connect with seniors are so encouraging. Consider what siblings Lorenzo and Arianna Martinelli did. As high school students in Kentucky during the pandemic, they organized weekly 30-minute phone conversations between older adults and students to share stories and build connections over time. Another high school student, India Ratha in Minnesota, helped to organize Sounds of Sunday. The program brings music students to nursing homes to perform for the residents. Vienna Rivard’s idea was to start a book club with older women in Hopkinton, Mass., to discuss feminist literature. They were among…

January 9, 2024

Credit Cardholders Can’t Seem to Knock Down Balances

After a good Christmas for retailers, the January regrets about overspending are inevitable.   What’s driving that regret was dramatized in a recent experiment to see if consumers could get control of their credit card balances. It was a flop. This experiment involved U.K. residents applying for credit cards who had selected the automatic payment option, which would withdraw a payment from their bank accounts every month. They were split into two groups, each with different choices. One group had three automated options: a monthly minimum payment, a fixed payment in an amount of their choosing, or paying the balance in full every month. In the second group, the researchers encouraged the credit card applicants to select a fixed payment every…

January 4, 2024

Retirement Planning, Prospects are Readers’ Top Concerns

The more the Great Recession recedes in the rearview mirror, the clearer is the damage sustained by the workers born in the final years of the baby boom. These so-called late boomers were between 42- and 47-years-old when the recession hit. Their careers were just hitting their stride when they were slammed by the downturn. The 50 percent stock market plunge and spike in unemployment did particular damage to their 401(k)s and their retirement prospects generally. A study totaling up the damage was the subject of one blog of particular interest to our readers last year.   By the time they reached their early 50s, late boomers had accumulated only about $280,000 in retirement wealth in the form of 401(k)…

January 2, 2024

Financial Challenges of Retired Parents of the Disabled

Retired parents who have a child with a disability say the income they and their children receive from Social Security is critical to their survival. Yet, for some, it still falls short of what they need after years of financial struggles, career tradeoffs, and premature retirements stemming from years of caregiving.  Without Social Security’s monthly check, “I’d probably be out on the street,” one parent told University of Wisconsin researchers in one of 12 interviews they conducted with the retired parents of children with disabilities. An older mother who fears her daughter’s disability benefits will be stopped when she turns 18 worries they might have to give up their two-bedroom apartment. “Am I going to be able to afford it,”…

December 21, 2023

Women’s Progress on Retirement Saving – Within Limits

Working women have clearly made progress since the 1970s, led by the boomers who streamed into the labor force. They are better educated today, and their pay has been rising relative to men’s. But women continue to contend with lower pay and interruptions in their work histories and premature retirements to care for children or aging parents, making it more difficult to save. The financial challenge of having enough money to retire is compounded by the fact that they usually live longer than their husbands. In the Transamerica Institute’s 2023 survey report on retirement, women recognize that things are looking up. But it’s tough for them to feel satisfied with where they are. However, women seem to have gotten t…

December 19, 2023

Older Wives Manage the Finances if Husbands Decline

The consensus in the research is that women’s financial literacy is lower than men’s. Maybe women aren’t as interested in the markets, and many are too busy juggling a job with taking care of the children to find time for financial matters anyway. Women’s general aversion to finance may also be akin to their lack of confidence in their math skills. But something interesting happens in old age. Wives will rise to the challenge and take over the finances from their husbands if they have to. A new study of older couples finds that wives’ financial competence increases as they try to compensate and prevent costly mistakes when they see that a husband’s executive function is slipping. “Specifically,” the researchers…

December 14, 2023

Blue-collar Workers Say Physical Demands are Rising

For obvious reasons, people who do physically demanding work are prone to injuring themselves on the job and are more likely than office workers to apply for federal disability benefits. But is technology changing this relationship? We know technology has caused a decline in manual labor, and the blue-collar jobs that remain are also easier to perform when machinery and computers are doing more of the heavy lifting workers used to do – think warehouse robots that alleviate the need to lift and carry heavy boxes. But new research based on a survey of couples between ages 51 and 61 – a population that is particularly vulnerable to illness and musculoskeletal disabilities – finds no evidence they feel the physica…

December 12, 2023

COVID’s Undue Financial Toll on Older Blacks, Hispanics

Anyone who was paying attention to COVID’s devastation, whether in terms of being exposed to the virus at work or deaths, could not miss the racial aspect of it. A new study of Americans over 50 confirms that Black and Hispanic workers, whose jobs often placed them on the front lines in the service industry, were much more likely to miss at least two weeks of work due to illness than their White counterparts. And this vulnerability had serious financial consequences, which were often compounded by a lack of employer benefits like paid time off or sick days if they contracted the virus. The federal relief package initially passed by Congress required employers to provide paid sick time but that…

December 7, 2023

Family Care Demands Don’t Stop at Nursing Home Door

Anyone who thinks that moving an elderly parent out of her home and into a facility will eliminate the need for most of the care they’ve been providing should think again. Two University of Pennsylvania researchers added up the hours that adult children, spouses and other unpaid caregivers provide when loved ones are in assisted living, nursing homes and other facilities. For example, informal caregivers put in only about a fourth of the hours at nursing homes that they would if their loved one were still living at home – that’s no doubt one reason for moving in the first place. But they still do an awful lot. Informal caregivers spend an average of 37 hours per month helping someon…

December 5, 2023

High vs Low Incomes: How Retirement Outlooks Diverge

Roughly three out of four low-income households might not have enough money to maintain even their modest standard of living after they retire. This sobering finding comes in a refinement by the Center for Retirement Research of its periodic look at workers’ retirement prospects. The center’s researchers use the data in the Federal Reserve’s periodic Survey of Consumer Finances to estimate how workers are doing. And time after time, they arrive at a similar conclusion: in the 2019 survey, roughly half of all working households were at risk of falling at least 10 percent short of the income they’ll need to maintain their current living standard in retirement. But a second analysis of the 2019 data split the households into…

November 30, 2023

Medicaid Expansion: a New Option for Disabled Workers

Picture an older warehouse worker whose back pain might qualify him for a federal cash benefit for his disability. If he’s right and his application is approved, he would get the Medicare health insurance he needs to manage his condition. But there’s a problem. Applicants often quit their jobs to strengthen the case for disability. But quitting would mean giving up his employer’s health insurance and going without coverage during the two-year waiting period for the Medicare that follows approval for disability benefits. Economists have a name for this predicament: job lock. A new study finds that the expansion of the Medicaid health insurance program, which has now spread to 40 states, opens up a new path for disabled workers…

November 28, 2023