How Emotions Meddle with Money

Our 401(k) retirement system requires most workers to save for the future. But it’s difficult to reach this increasingly important goal, because our emotions – overconfidence, pleasure, fear of loss – get in the way.

“We believe our own nonsense,” is how Daylian Cane, a professor in the Yale School of Management, explains financial behavior in a new public television program, “Thinking Money: The Psychology Behind our Best and Worst Financial Decisions.” The short video above is taken from the program.

Further clouding our judgment are a vast array of consumer products, and the stress produced by how easy it is to purchase them with a credit card swipe and how hard it is to pay off the cards.

“Thinking Money,” a production of Maryland Public Television, covers many topics covered by this blog, including help for people trying to overcome their emotional obstacles.

“Thinking Money” is scheduled to air in its entirety on public television stations around the country in coming weeks.  Click on “Learn More” for a list of broadcast dates in major cities. …Learn More

Seniors’ Housing Cost Burden on Rise

For a growing share of older Americans, housing expenses have become an increasingly large financial burden.

Chart: Housing burdenOne in three Americans over age 50 were carrying a severe or moderate housing cost burden in 2012, up from one in four in 2000, according to a new study by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and AARP. The Center defined a severe burden as housing costs that consume more than half of household income; a moderate housing burden takes between 30 percent and 50 percent of income.

The Center’s report, Housing America’s Older Adults – Meeting the Needs of An Aging Population,” warns that the nation is unprepared for both the financial and non-financial housing challenges that will accompany the coming explosion in the elderly population. Aging baby boomers will require better access to public transit, handicap access, assisted living facilities and other special services and amenities, and many will need subsidized housing.

Housing is often an older person’s largest single expense. And because housing costs are largely fixed (think mortgage payment, taxes, insurance, upkeep and utilities), they can become a growing burden for people as they age and become more vulnerable to reductions in income. Incomes often decline toward the end of their working years and decline again when they enter retirement. Pensions and Social Security benefits fall again when one spouse dies.

The report finds that: …Learn More

utopia

On Moms, Deadbeat Boomers, and Utopia

This blog has a single writer posting just two articles a week. So it’s impossible to keep up with all the news that crosses the transom.

But perhaps because the work world is gearing back up this fall, there have been a lot of interesting stories lately about financial behavior.  Here are three worth noting:

Fatherhood adds to paychecks – motherhood, not so much. A new study estimates that women actually face about a 7 percent “wage penalty” for each child. So, having two children reduces a woman’s hourly wages by 14 percent, according to a new study out of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In contrast, annual earnings for fathers are about 8 percent higher than similarly situated men who have no children. This research sheds more light on the wage gap.

Baby boomers are having to pay off college loans they took out decades ago.  Some 155,000 older Americans are now seeing deductions from their Social Security checks to pay their federal student loans – up from 31,000 a decade ago – according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.  Parents often co-sign loans for a child’s education, but the GAO report says that about three out of four dollars of boomers’ loan balances are for their “own education.”  Baby boomers never borrowed the large amounts that today’s steep college tuitions demand. But what’s not discussed in the report is that the garnisheeing of Social Security benefits may be due to a cultural artifact of the 1960s and 1970s – when attitudes toward repaying student debt were, well, loose.  Laws requiring repayment have become more stringent. …Learn More

Credit Union Popularity Rises

It’s not hard to find glowing testimonials online about credit unions – friendlier staff, lower fees, and faster processing of loan applications, credit union customers say.

“Way better than a bank!” Dan F. says about his Iowa credit union.

Now this warm, fuzzy feeling among existing credit union members seems to be reaching the general public. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) reports membership growth exceeded 2 percent annually for the past three years, ending a lull that was taking hold only a decade ago.

In CUNA’s newest count – the year ending 2014 – total membership increased to 100.1 million members. CUNA president Bill Hampel’s theory is the financial crisis of 2008-2009 “soured a lot of people on the big banks.”

People do trust credit unions a lot more than banks, especially large banking companies, according to a “trust index” tracked by the University of Chicago and Northwestern University’s business schools. Two-thirds of Americans trust credit unions, the index showed recently, while only one in four trust a major bank. …Learn More

An Anti-Retirement Advocate

At 89 years old, retirement is one of the few things that has not made it onto Robert E. Levinson’s vita.

Cover of "The Anti-Retirement Book"Levinson almost single-handedly seems to be trying to start an anti-retirement movement. He feels so strongly that he once wrote a book titled, “The Anti-Retirement Book.”

“I just feel very strongly that one should never retire, or if they’re forced to retire they should try to find something productive to do,” he said.

Though not wealthy, Levinson is one of the lucky Americans. The long-time businessman and fund-raiser for a Florida college is college educated and said he is comfortable financially. But when he looks around his luxury senior community in Delray Beach, he sees pain and regret. Many residents seem idle. For example, a retired physician sits in the lobby waiting for people to drop by and consult him on their ailments. …Learn More

Chesser cats

A Short-lived Retirement

Call it the anti-retirement movement – older Americans who are either resisting the lure of retirement or have eagerly exited a short-lived retirement to return to work.

Squared Away tracked down three people who fit the profile of the type of people research has shown are most likely to keep working into their mid-60s, 70s, or even their 80s: college-educated go-getters who find unlimited travel or golf a tad boring. To be sure, these are the lucky Americans who have financial and other advantages that many older people lack. The extra money they receive from working, even if it’s part-time, isn’t their primary motivation, though it’s nice to have. And age has given them the luxury of crafting their own work schedules, which also allow them to enjoy their families or philanthropy.

Two of these older Americans – Roger Parker, a retired minister (the second musician from right in photo above), and Deborah Hope, a financial industry veteran – are profiled below. One more profile will appear in Thursday’s blog.

Roger Parker
During Roger Parker’s long career as a United Methodist minister, what never got the attention it deserved was one of his lifelong passions: playing jazz standards on the piano – “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars,” “Take the A Train,” “Satin Doll,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and “The Girl from Ipanema.”

Parker retired from full-time work at his church in Franklin, Tennessee, outside Nashville, after years of saving and preparation for a retirement funded by his church pension and 401(k) account. He signed up for weekly music lessons that got him in shape to join two local jazz groups: Wingtip, which occasionally picks up a paid gig, and Chesser Cats, which performs more frequently – and for free – at local nursing homes. …Learn More

Graduates wondering about their finances

Graduates Struggle for Autonomy

If buying a house or having children were once hallmarks of being a grown-up, something more basic marks a successful transition to adulthood today: financial self-sufficiency.

Only half of more than 1,000 freshmen who entered the University of Arizona in 2007 and were tracked over time by researchers Joyce Serido and Soyeon Shim were employed full-time in 2013.  And only half of these full-time workers, ranging in age from 23 to 26 years old, supported themselves without help from family members.

These young adults, mostly graduated, overwhelmingly said that achieving financial independence was critical, according to Serido and Shim’s new report, “Life After College: Drivers for Young Adult Success.” But achieving independence has been difficult due to unprecedented borrowing for college and a post-Great Recession job market that’s been described as “bleak” for young adults.

While the economy certainly poses hurdles, the report concludes that too many young adults fail to take responsibility for their personal finances.  Recent graduates were grouped into three levels of financial behavior: high-functioning, rebounding, and struggling.   Which one is you or your child? …Learn More

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