Social Security 101

As a young adult starting my career in Chicago in the 1980s, I didn’t have a clue how Social Security worked or why money was being taken out of my scrawny paycheck.

But trust me on this: the Social Security retirement program becomes a lot more interesting to workers as they age and their retirement horizon comes into sharp focus.  It affects just about every American – and most of us pay into it.

It is not only the bedrock of retirement for millions of Americans and their spouses, but it’s also a source of income for their survivors, including children, and workers who become disabled.

In this video, officials from the U.S. Social Security Administration explain what its programs do and why they matter. Learn More

Seniors Describe Their Lives in Poverty

About 15 percent of Americans age 65 and over are poor, according to the federal government’s alternative definition of poverty, known as the Supplemental Poverty Measure, a yardstick that takes into account seniors’ out-of-pocket medical expenses, as well as income and tax effects not included in the standard measure of poverty.

A compelling new video profiles poor older Americans who live in Baltimore, rural West Virginia, and Los Angeles. In the video, produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit research and policy organization focused on health care, the seniors identify rising rents and medical expenses as major explanations of financial hardship, which can mean lacking enough money for food.

Squared Away also has interviewed seniors living in a Boston housing complex for low-income seniors. To hear their stories, click here. Learn More

Minimum Wage Workers: Who are They?


Whether or not you agree that the minimum wage should be raised, there are very real financial strains on the 5 percent of U.S. hourly workers who earn no more than $7.25 per hour, the current federal minimum wage.

This video, produced by Bloomberg TV, puts a human face on a few of these 3.5 million workers.  Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides more information about who they are:

  • Nearly half are over age 25.
  • Two-thirds are women, and one-third are men.
  • About three-fifths of minimum-wage workers are in service occupations, such as food preparation and food service.

Learn More

How Love Is Like Money


In this video, an expert in financial behavior explains the common errors in reasoning, whether people are thinking about love or money. Thoughts like:

• This time is different.
• I can change things.
• Wishing on a star.
• Being afraid of loss. Learn More

Financial Survey: Americans Unsatisfied


The Great Recession is receding into the past, but many people may still be feeling the strain in their personal finances.

Post-recession, “the fact remains that Americans are fairly unsatisfied about where they are financially,” Gerri Walsh, president of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, said in a recent video in which she discussed her organization’s 2012 National Financial Capability Study.

The study, the nation’s most comprehensive survey of financial literacy and well-being, reported some areas of progress for average workers. Compared with 2009 – the depths of recession – more people felt they were better able to make ends meet in 2012. But a substantial minority of Americans were still living paycheck to paycheck.

A previous blog post provides other FINRA findings. To view the state-by-state data, as well as the national results, click here.Learn More

HHS Website Decodes Long-Term Care


Every day, some 10,000 Americans are turning 65, and every day, more of them start thinking about their long-term care.

For help, try the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recently redesigned website, Longtermcare.gov. It’s very easy to navigate and is packed with reliable information to help visitors:

  • Search for specific types of services in your area, by zip code.
  • Learn whether your home and location are compatible with aging in place.
  • Analyze long-term care costs, by type of service and state.

Learn More

Shopping on an iPad

iPad Shoppers: More Likely to Buy?

A new study out of Boston College finds that e-shopping for products while grasping an iPad increases the feeling of ownership of that product – and may make you more likely to buy it.

The findings expand on a financial behavior issue explored in a popular Squared Away blog post about how the Internet has made it much easier to shop – and spend money. The new research distinguishes among the various technologies available to online shoppers and finds that the urge to buy may be even stronger when holding a touch screen device than when using a laptop or desktop computer.

The way this works is that the tactile experience of holding a product – whether taking it off the store rack or grasping the device that’s displaying it – imbues some sense of ownership, making it harder to give it up and resist buying it.

Here is an edited excerpt of an article explaining the research; the article appeared in Chronicle, a publication for Boston College faculty and staff. …Learn More

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