Seven years ago this month, this personal finance and retirement blog debuted. How things have changed.
For one thing, back in 2011, a lot more people were reading blogs and newspapers on their clunky desktop computers. In recognition of the now-ubiquitous smart phone – more accurately, a computer that happens to have a phone – we just redesigned how Squared Away looks on phones to enlarge the type and make the articles easier to read. Our older readers will appreciate this update.
Year 7 is also an opportunity to restate the blog’s mission, which, frankly, was not fully refined in the early years. In some ways, our mission has not changed: we continue to emphasize retirement security and personal finance, with a bent toward the evidence-based research that provides a clearer understanding of the financial, economic, and behavioral issues that are critical to a high quality of life.
We regularly report on research by scholars around the country, including studies produced by members of the U.S. Social Security Administration’s Retirement Research Consortium: the NBER Retirement Research Center in Cambridge, Mass., the University of Michigan Retirement Research Center, and the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, which also is the blog’s home.
But it’s natural for a new publication to find its sweet spot over time, and Squared Away is no different. One theme that has emerged very clearly is that the threads of retirement saving are shot through the fabric of our financial lives.
The predicament of Millennials is an obvious example. Immediately after beginning their careers, 20- and 30-somethings – so much more than their parents and grandparents – are under the gun to save for retirements that no longer are likely to include a pension. …Learn More
Caregiver in a nursing home can be grueling work, but my aunt loved it. In one of life’s cruel ironies, she died soon after retiring to take care of her husband, who is developing dementia.
The great responsibility for his care fell suddenly on his children and grandchildren, and they’re struggling with it.
I texted this video to a couple of my uncle’s daughters because it provides invaluable information and insight into the myriad causes of Alzheimer’s and the unique way its symptoms manifest in each individual. It also explains why diagnosis by a physician is critical – turns out, some people appear to have dementia, but the cause of their cognitive decline isn’t Alzheimer’s and may be reversible.
The speaker, Tammy Pozerycki, owns Pleasantries, which operates adult day care centers in the greater Boston area. In 1906, Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a brain researcher, first identified and described the disease. “It’s 2018, and we have no cure,” said Pozyercki. This places the burden on caregivers to manage the disease.
Full disclosure: her presentation was sponsored by Boston College’s human resources department for the benefit of employees. This blog is based at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.Learn More
When Squared Away first went live almost seven years ago, few reporters in the mainstream media wrote regularly about retirement. Things have really changed.
The Washington Post recently declared a “new reality of old age in America.” The New York Times and The Boston Globe have regular retirement writers. Even The New Yorker – the go-to read for the aging but still hip – dived in and investigated an abhorrent case involving an abused elderly woman.
Retirement is a hot topic, because some 10,000 boomers have been retiring daily for years – in fact, the media frequently cite this statistic – and an unprecedented number of the boomers who still work are thinking a lot about whether or when to stop.
This blog publishes twice a week, and I don’t have time for the in-depth investigations I did as a Boston Globe reporter. But plenty of newspaper and magazine reporters are exploring retirement issues in great detail.
Here are five of the best articles in recent months:
The New Yorker: “How the Elderly Lose their Rights”: Metropolitan newspapers often cover local nursing homes charged with elder abuse. This lengthy article is about one government-appointed guardian’s abuse of one elderly woman. This extreme case carries a larger message: how readily some people take advantage of the most vulnerable elderly.
The New York Times: “There’s Community and Consensus. But it’s No Commune.” Here’s some good news: rather than funnel older people into housing strictly for the elderly, multigenerational “co-housing” developments offer children of the 1960s a place to live, where they can remain engaged with younger people – and society.
The Atlantic: “This is What Life Without Retirement Savings Looks Like”: Analyses by our research center here at Boston College find that about half of working Americans should have enough money to retire. But the other half of retirees will rely solely on their Social Security. This woman, age 76, had to go to work at a grocery store to supplement her income. …Learn More
When it comes to state residents’ health insurance coverage, Utah and New Mexico are polar opposites.
Sixty percent of Utah residents are covered at work – the most nationwide. New Mexico employers cover only 36 percent – the lowest coverage rate.
It follows that their Medicaid populations also differ. In Utah, the federal-state health insurance program covers the nation’s smallest share (10 percent) of poor and low-income workers. New Mexico’s Medicaid population is triple that (31 percent of residents), and its poverty rate is among the highest nationwide.
“Where you live can play an important role in what coverage options are available to you and how affordable they are,” said Rachel Garfield, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s senior researcher and associate director of its Medicaid and uninsured program. The Kaiser data are from 2016.
The factors driving the two indicators – employer vs. Medicaid coverage – are intertwined. A larger presence of big, successful companies ensures more employer coverage, raising the standard of living and reducing the need for federal aid. These are, in turn, influenced by other cross-currents in each state, Garfield said: the nature of its industry, whether retail, industrial, high-tech, or agricultural; population demographics, such as the number of immigrants; whether the state expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act (ACA); and the ebbs and flows of regional recessions and recoveries.
Take Utah. Despite being a primarily rural state with its “Mighty Five” national parks, it is chock full of major employers. Utah’s three largest have 20,000-plus workers each: Intermountain Healthcare, the University of Utah, and state government. Many more employ at least 5,000. Utah’s relatively slim Medicaid population is no doubt influenced by both its employer base and the state’s decision not to participate in the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, which increased the program’s income limits to make more workers eligible. …Learn More
I was honored to be in the company of some excellent retirement writers recognized in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, “My Favorite Writers on Retirement Planning.” Since I started writing this blog in May 2011 for the Center for Retirement Research, which is funded by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), retirement writers have come out of the woodwork to help the swarms of retiring baby boomers – and many of us need it!
Others featured in the article by the Journal’s Glenn Ruffenach – some new, some veterans – include financial planner Michael Kitces, whom I’ve interviewed about tax strategies for retirement plan withdrawals. Most everyone knows Jonathan Clements, a former long-time Journal reporter now editing and writing a blog. Last but not least, I’ll mention Mike Piper, a certified public accountant – someone new to interview! – and Christine Benz of Morningstar, a Chicago firm that is a long-time source of data and information for this blog.
Each writer is distinct. So, what do we try to do here at Squared Away? …Learn More
This New Yorker cartoon by Trevor Spaulding is cute, but – spoiler alert – it’s not quite right.
A company offering a 401(k) retirement savings plan to its workers is a good thing, but it’s no “favor,” noted my long-time editor Steve Sass, an economist with a hawk eye for inaccurate retirement information. Setting up and funding a 401(k) is a big expense for employers. But many think it is worthwhile, because 401(k)s – and, more so, employers’ matching contributions – help them attract and retain the sharpest, most productive, or most-skilled workers.
Another employer calculation is that the income tax deduction employees get for saving, which costs the employer nothing, is especially valuable for those on the payroll who earn the most money and, by definition, pay more taxes. It’s a neat outcome that the tax deduction most helps those presumably doing the most for the bottom line, though the government does limit how much highly compensated employees can contribute based on how much the rank-and-file workers are contributing.
But, it’s no fun to criticize a cartoon!Learn More