Rising Stocks, House Prices Boost US Retirement Outlook

While COVID was raging, the jump in house prices and a rising stock market were dramatically improving U.S. workers’ retirement finances. In 2022, the share of households that were not saving enough to maintain their standard of living after they retire dropped to 39 percent, from 47 percent in 2019, according to the Center for Retirement Research, which sponsors this blog. That 39 percent is the lowest level in the nearly two decades the center has been analyzing the data in the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances, which is conducted every three years. But the news is not quite as good as it appears, because the increase in house prices in 2020 through 2022, which continues today, was…

March 28, 2024

Bureaucracy, Paperwork Block Access to Government Aid

Seven million low-income Americans who would qualify for SNAP food stamps are not receiving them. And millions have fallen out of their state’s Medicaid coverage or Children’s Health Insurance Program since the federal guarantee of coverage during COVID expired last year.   The bureaucratic hurdles, multiple-page applications, and layers of federal and state requirements cause many eligible people to give up on applying or, if they apply, to be rejected by government safety net programs for incomplete or improper applications. “It can feel like a full-time job getting on those programs and actually staying on them,” Pamela Herd, co-author of “Administrative Burden: Policy by Other Means,” said in this NewsHour video. Morgan Wingate, a single mother of three, said she could really us…

March 26, 2024

Nursing Homes Forced to Hire More Costly Outside Staff

COVID has wreaked havoc on the nursing home industry’s staffing. Prior to COVID, only one in five nursing homes had to hire some of their workers from outside agencies to fill in as caregivers for their patients. Today, nearly half are using agency staff, who are providing more and more hours of the direct care that these high-need patients require, according to research in the March issue of the journal Health Affairs. Hiring agency staff is more expensive than employing people in-house, and the growing use of them has created numerous problems for nursing homes and potentially their patients, who lose out when their caregivers are temporary workers unfamiliar with their needs. Staff shortages had already been an issue but…

March 21, 2024

In COVID Year 2, Older Workers Faced Tough Choices

The first year of the pandemic, a period of great uncertainty, was even more fraught for older workers, who were at higher risk of serious illness or death if they contracted the virus. The second year brought more uncertainty. Older Americans were embracing the new vaccine as variants of the virus continued to evolve. Unemployment, after spiking at nearly 15 percent the previous year, was coming back down. In September, the generous cash assistance approved in Congress that had kept many Americans afloat expired. Despite the job market recovery in Year 2 of COVID – April 2021 through March 2022 – new research finds that fewer older people were employed because many of them had decided to stop working or…

March 19, 2024

Homeownership in Retirement: an Asset or a Burden?

The conventional wisdom for older workers heading into retirement is that owning a house is a good thing. The property has no doubt appreciated over many years, adding to their wealth.  But new research finds that homeowners often strain to a pay a mortgage that is larger than what they can realistically afford. The essence of the problem for retirees, who usually rely on savings to help with living expenses, is that many do not have enough to make their monthly payments comfortably. This problem has become more pressing over the years. Half of the retired homeowners who were born in the early years of the baby boom wave are still making mortgage payments. They are in a very different…

March 14, 2024

Caregivers Share their Stresses and Joys

Jacquelyn had finally snared her dream job as an assistant to a television writer in New York City. Riding the subway one Saturday night, she got a call that changed all that. Her mother, who was living with her grandmother, was in trouble back home. Jacquelyn returned to find rotting food in the refrigerator and a house on the brink of foreclosure for past due mortgage payments. Her mother had Alzheimer’s disease. Jacquelyn said she had to quit her job and never returned to New York. “Caregiving requires a restructuring of who you are,” she said. Undervalued, stressed, exhausted, guilty and even resentful – these are some of the feelings that unpaid caregivers, who are mostly women, experience on t…

March 12, 2024

Shrinking Social Security’s Racial Gap – but Only a Little

Consider the myriad reasons Black Americans get 19 percent less from Social Security during their retirement years than White retirees. Inequities in the labor market limit their job opportunities and earnings, which are the basis for determining how much they will get in their Social Security checks. Poorer health or the demands of caring for children or ill family members shortens careers and cuts into benefits. Smaller benefit checks are also a problem because Blacks are less likely to marry. The strain on single workers’ finances spills over into old age if they lacked a higher-earning spouse who would get a bigger Social Security check. Hispanics also get less – 14 percent less – for some of the same reasons,…

March 7, 2024

Saving for Retirement Can Mean Adding Some Debt Too

In today’s world, workers need to save if they want to be comfortable in retirement. But there are also limits to what many people can afford. A new study finds that when U.K. workers were automatically enrolled and started contributing to a retirement savings plan, their household debt – credit cards, bank overdrafts, and other unsecured loans – increased. For every 32 to 38 pounds (or $40-48) in combined monthly contributions by the employer and employee, their debt rose by just over 7 pounds (about $9). Stepping back to look at the big picture, this research also confirms the benefit of auto-enrollment: it encourages workers who might not otherwise have saved to get started. And the increase in unsecured debt,…

March 5, 2024

Surging U.S. Centenarian Population Requires Action

The growth in the over-100 population is gob-smacking. In 30 years, Pew reports that the number of U.S. centenarians will quadruple to more than 400,000. To get a sense of what this will mean, picture every resident in Tampa, Fla., being over 100. In 1950, only 2,300 people in the entire country were. Most centenarians today are women and will be in the future but men are also living longer. Men will make up about a third of them in 2054, up from a fifth currently, according to Pew. The rapid growth in the over-100 population is part of a larger trend of an aging nation, which creates three pressing policy concerns. First, all these old people are going to…

February 29, 2024

Crack-era Incarcerations Added to the Disability Rolls

Some 300,000 men in their 50s and early 60s were receiving federal disability benefits in 2016 as a direct result of a past surge in incarceration, according to new research. The number of American men in federal or state prisons peaked at 1.5 million in 2010. That surge, which continues to affect the disability program today, was rooted in the crack epidemic of the 1980s that entangled many baby boomers and in the three-strikes laws in the 1990s that put more men in prison for drug offenses. The increase in the prison population and its subsequent fall roughly follows the rise and fall in the number of men on the disability rolls. A new study confirms a link between men’s…

February 27, 2024

Connecting Black, Hispanic Layoffs to Retirement Wealth

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,…

February 22, 2024

4 Phases of Retirement. The Second One is Not Much Fun

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…

February 20, 2024