Employers Shift Retiree Coverage to Medicare Advantage

If you retired in 1988 from a job at a large employer with health insurance, you had good odds you would continue to be covered into old age. Two-thirds of large employers that covered their current workers continued to insure them after they retired. The odds today are not so good: just one in five large employers extends insurance to former employees. Covering retired workers is expensive, and a growing number of companies are unwilling to pay for it. Among the employers that still do, a development has been afoot that may be limiting the options available to their former workers. The employers and unions that still offer health benefits to retirees are increasingly rolling out Medicare Advantage plans to…

January 23, 2024

Married Women are Upwardly Mobile. Singles – not so Much

Birth is a sort of lottery. Babies may be born into wealth and privilege, poverty and struggle, or something in between. The question is whether, when they grow up, they will choose an occupation that improves on their parents’ circumstances. In other words, how upwardly mobile are they? Doing better financially than one’s parents is an essential part of the proverbial American Dream. A historical study of U.S. mobility from generation to generation finds that upward mobility largely followed the same upward path for the married men and women born between 1835 and 1915. Growing economic opportunity gave them both fairly strong chances of surpassing what their fathers did for a living. The reason married men’s and married women’s mobility…

January 18, 2024

Many Barriers Hinder Rural Use of Government Programs­­­

Older Americans, low-income workers, and people with disabilities are over-represented in remote areas of the country. But rural enrollment in federal and state programs tends to be low, creating a shortage of government services where they are critically needed. One source of the problem is the numerous barriers to getting information about, and enrolling in, programs like Social Security disability and retirement benefits, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Medicaid health insurance program for workers with very low incomes. Researchers recently conducted a systematic review of studies, newspaper articles and government reports published between 2012 and 2022 to get a better sense of why access to government assistance is more difficult for rural residents. Two of the many examples…

January 16, 2024

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