stress

Stress is One Reason People Retire

Only about half of U.S. workers in their late 50s can be expected to remain employed at age 63, and less than a third make it past 65.

New research looks below the surface of these broad trends to reveal the role that the specific characteristics of individual occupations play in whether baby boomers can work longer.

It’s very common for people unexpectedly hit with health problems or blue-collar workers facing up to their physical limitations to retire earlier. On the other hand, older people in some jobs have good odds of working longer. A new study by researchers from the University of Michigan and the Rand Corporation uncovered three characteristics that promote working longer that exist in a variety of jobs: low stress, stable job demands and duties, and the ability to transition to part-time work.

The researchers used a survey of full-time workers over time, starting when they were 51 years old, to see when they retired. Their analysis then linked the workers to a separate database of job skills and characteristics to uncover specific jobs that led to earlier retirements (before age 63) or later retirements (after 65).

Research has consistently shown a strong tendency for high-stress work to push people out the door earlier – one example that emerged from this study is licensed practical nurses, who are on the front lines in challenging medical situations. A related finding is that people retiring after 65 are often in “creative or labor-of-love” jobs,” such as writers, musicians, social workers, clergy, and college professors. This is indirectly tied to stress, which is often mitigated by a love of one’s work. …Learn More

Delaying Motherhood Boosts Earnings

Mother and child

Economists have landed on two primary reasons for why women working full-time earn less than their male co-workers. First, their research detects an element of discrimination.

The second reason stems from motherhood, which can make it extremely difficult to simultaneously complete an education or get a firm footing in a career.

But America is changing. Over the past half-century, the typical age at which women have their first baby has risen markedly, from 20 to 25.

This societal shift toward later motherhood has, in turn, dramatically improved women’s financial prospects, concluded a study featured in a book about the financial impact of changing employment, family and health trends.

University of Virginia economist Amalia Miller found that each one-year delay in when women start a family has increased their lifetime earnings by 3 percent. Since first motherhood now comes five years later, she estimates that translates to a 14 percent increase since the 1960s in the typical woman’s lifetime earnings.

Women who wait to become mothers also accumulate more wealth: each one-year delay increases their wealth at age 50 by between $12,000 and $20,000 – or potentially $100,000 more for waiting five years.

Although women who earn more money spend more, “their consumption does not increase proportionately, leaving them with greater accumulated wealth at older ages,” Miller said. “The effects of motherhood timing especially are substantial and significant for decades after the age at first birth and well into retirement years.”

Education plays a large role in the improvement in women’s ability to build up their financial resources. For example, there was a much smaller increase in women’s incomes due to delay when Miller controlled for education.

There is another way to think about her findings: it’s becoming clear to many young women that there are fairly large financial rewards from delaying their first child. …Learn More

Illustration of dragon

Game of Loans: Refinancing Student Debt

Brendan Coughlin, who runs the student loan refinancing unit for a major bank, is very upfront about this: some young adults should not refinance their loans.

One example is a graduate new to the labor force who doesn’t feel stable yet in his or her job. Refinancing a federal student loan with a high interest rate can make sense and saves money. But one reason not to refinance federal loans is that they have a major advantage over loans refinanced by private lenders: flexible repayment options for those who might have difficulty meeting their monthly payments later.

Another reason not to refinance is that the government forgives the debt after five or 10 years for certain types of teachers and public service workers.

Understanding whether to refinance is so important that Coughlin, as president of Citizens Bank’s consumer lending unit, instructs the bank’s loan officers to talk prospective customers through the pros and cons three or four times – to make sure they’re clear about what’s at stake.

“We really don’t want to have a customer swap out their loans and have a surprise. We want to make sure they’re making the right decision,” he said.

If you clear the hurdles, however, it might be time to refinance into bank loans with lower interest rates than the steep 6.8 percent currently charged for some federal student loans – and the double-digit rates on some private loans. Citizens Bank estimates that more than 40 percent of the $1.3 trillion in student loan debt outstanding is both held by someone who could qualify for refinancing and has interest rates high enough to potentially make it worthwhile. …Learn More

Ladies in swimming pool

Seeking Roommate to Share Bills

Maria Machado estimates that women over 50 make up about three out of four of the Dallasites seeking to cut their living expenses either by renting out a room in their home or by renting from a homeowner.

Shared housing often isn’t their first choice. “We like our independence,” said Machado, head of the Shared Housing Center, a non-profit roommate matching service in Dallas. But “house rich and money poor” older women will turn to house-sharing when they become widowed or if Social Security is their sole source of retirement income, she said. Companionship is another benefit of match-ups, whether with another senior or a younger adult.

The Shared Housing Center is part of a national network of programs matching up homeowners with responsible, low-income adult renters. In another form of house-sharing, two or a group of people will pool their resources to buy a house and share the mortgage, upkeep costs, and taxes.

The network created a website, the National Shared Housing Resource Center, that lists agencies in 23 states providing these services. Many major cities (though not Atlanta or Detroit) have agencies, and several states have more than one (California has a dozen). Many programs in the network conduct background checks, the website says.

To find a house-sharing program in your city, click here.  To read about “success stories,” click here and here.

Jamie Hopkins predicted “the Golden Girls scenario” will become more common as baby boomers age, and he recommended it as an option in his new book, “Retirement Risks: How to Plan Around Uncertainty for a Successful Retirement.”

Homeowners “say, ‘I’m going to live here as long as I can, and that’s my plan.’ But if people want to age in place, you’ve got to come up with a way to generate income from this asset.” …Learn More

Why Most Elderly Pay No Federal Tax

Chart: Tax pieA March blog post pointing out that a large majority of America’s older population pay no federal income tax seemed to surprise some readers – particularly retirees who must send checks to the IRS at this time of year.

“[M]y annual tax liability is and will continue to be greater than when I was employed,” said one such retiree.

Readers’ comments are always welcome, and this time they’ve thrown a spotlight on a shortcoming of the article.  It did not fully explore why most retirees – roughly two-thirds of 70 year olds – pay no federal income tax.

According to a Tax Policy Center report, “Why Some Tax Units Pay No Income Tax,” tax filers over age 65 are the largest single group to benefit from special provisions of the tax code designed to help various types of people. The elderly receiving tax preferences make up 44 percent of filers of all ages who are moved off the tax rolls by these tax breaks, said the Center, a joint effort of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution.

Of course, retirees pay all sorts of other taxes, including property tax and state sales and income taxes.  But it’s essential for baby boomers to understand this federal income tax issue as they plan for retirement. …Learn More

Photo of a crowd of people

White-Collar Jobs Age-Sensitive Too

Skills that decline with age:It’s widely recognized that blue-collar workers retire relatively early, when their bodies start wearing out. But the assumption has been that people in less physically demanding white-collar jobs can carry on.

However, that does not hold true for all white-collar occupations, according to a newly released study by the Center for Retirement Research, which supports this blog. This finding is especially relevant amid renewed discussions about again increasing the age when workers can claim their full Social Security benefits.

This would effectively reduce everyone’s benefits by about 7 percent for each year the age is raised.  Benefits are reduced either because individuals must wait longer to claim their full monthly benefit (which means receiving the benefit for a shorter period of time) or because they would receive a smaller monthly benefit if they don’t wait.  The reduced monthly benefit would affect people who might be pushed into an earlier retirement due to age-related limitations on what they can do.

Factory or construction workers are classic examples: critical attributes, such as strength and flexibility, atrophy with age. But so do many cognitive and other requirements common to both white- and blue-collar jobs. Memory slips, eyesight blurs, and reaction times are no longer as sharp as they used to be. …Learn More

Our Blind Spots Cut Retirement Savings

2016 Wimpy art

Our personal biases can play havoc with how we handle our finances.

Two such biases have long been suspected as obstacles to saving for retirement. The first is a tendency to procrastinate on decisions that may benefit an individual in the long run, but also involve short-term costs, like saving for retirement – economists call this “present bias.”

The second bias is a failure to perceive the power of compounding investment returns and how this can build wealth over decades of saving.

But the impact of these biases on how much people actually save wasn’t really understood – until now.  A new study by a team of economists from Stanford University, the University of Minnesota, the London School of Economics, and Claremont Graduate University finds that people who are not blinded by these two biases in particular have saved significantly more for retirement, largely because they start putting money away earlier in life.

The researchers based their findings on a big sample of nearly 2,500 people in online surveys in 2014 and 2015; the average age was about 49. To determine the consistency with which they value the present over the future, the survey asked the participants a series of questions about whether they would, for example, rather have $100 now or a larger amount on some future date – people who want their money now are a bit like Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons, who became famous for wanting a hamburger now but offering to pay for it later. The survey questions about compounding revolved around estimating an account’s future value, using a variety of different interest rates and time periods. … Learn More

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