Best States for Growing Old

Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont, Wisconsin, California and Maine – these states may be the best places to grow old.

They came out on top in AARP’s new State Scorecard based on their access, cost and the quality of their care services for aging adults and on their supports for the most common form of caregiver – family members.

To see your state’s overall ranking, run your cursor over the map below. To see how your state ranks on other measures, click here.

Enid Kassner, an AARP vice president who helped developed the rankings, said the Scorecard is useful to the leading edge of the baby boom generation, who will start turning 80 in 12 years. For example, if having a say in selecting the individual professional who will provide care, such as bathing, dressing, or meals, is the top priority, California is the best place to be. …Learn More

Retiree Health Plans Considered

Retiree health benefits are a luxury item.

In 2013, just 28 percent of government and private-sector employers with more than 200 employees offered health benefits to their retiring workers, down from 66 percent in 1988, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Bar chart showing large firms who offer retiree health benefitsThese plans are popular with workers, but their declining prevalence has a silver lining.

A long history of research shows that people who can retain their employer health benefits if they retire tend to retire earlier, confident they’ll be insulated from extraordinary medical expenses that could wipe out their savings.

Here’s the silver lining when retirees lose that coverage: by inducing them to remain in the labor force longer, perhaps until their Medicare starts, it improves their retirement security in other ways. …Learn More

Social Security: Vale La Pena Esperar

Waiting to claim Social Security is good for retirees’ financial health – none more so than the U.S. Latino population.

This message is delivered in Spanish in the above video, “El Seguro Social: Vale la Pena Esperar.” The video was produced by the National Academy of Social Insurance, a policy research non-profit, and Squared Away found it on the website of Latinos & Economic Security.

Latinos & Economic Security, which is part of UCLA’s Center for Policy Research on Aging, said Latinos make up 7 percent of the U.S. population age 65 and older. But due to their lower incomes during their working years, Latinos are more reliant on Social Security than are Asian-American, African-American and white, non-Latino retirees, the organization said.

Its research also shows that Social Security provides at least 90 percent of the income of well over 40 percent of elderly Latino couples. So it pays to delay and increase the size of that monthly pension check. …Learn More

Aging, but Oblivious

Older people often wonder why young adults get tattoos that they’ll later want to remove.

In this Ted video, psychologist Dan Gilbert says tattoos are a good example of a universal error in thinking. …

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Depression Up After Pension Benefits Cut

Sudden changes in older workers’ financial expectations for retirement can cause depression, according to a 2011 study.

The study, which came out of the Netherlands, suggests that cuts in Dutch pensions, announced on very short notice, produced feelings of differential treatment and a loss of control that increased the incidence of depression among the workers who were adversely affected.

Workers were tested for depression two years after a 2006 pension reform reduced the share of their salaries replaced by the government-mandated defined benefit pension plans provided by employers.

Workers born in 1950 and after suddenly learned their “replacement rate” – the percent of pay the pension replaces – would drop to 64 percent, from the 70 percent initially promised.  Everyone born before 1950 was unaffected.  To replace the lost benefits, workers facing the cut would either have to save substantially more or work an additional 13 months. …Learn More

Government Workers See COLA Cuts

State and local government workers have long felt their pensions were more secure than the vanishing pension coverage in the private sector.  But a spate of changes to cost-of-living protections should give them pause.

In the wake of the Great Recession, 17 states reduced, suspended, or eliminated cost-of-living increases (COLAs) in their defined benefit pensions for state and local workers, according to a recent summary of legislative actions around the country by the Center for Retirement Research, which sponsors this blog.  And the courts are backing them up, deciding that the inflation protections – a fixture of the majority of public pensions – do not have the same constitutional or other legal protections that apply to core benefits.

The COLA changes, enacted to reduce government pension liabilities, generally affect both current retirees’ benefits and the future retirement benefits of active employees.

The above map shows where the cuts have occurred.  The following is a summary of the specific change in each state: …

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Social Security at 62 but Fairly Healthy

Are people who claim their Social Security retirement benefits when they’re 62 too sick or impaired to work?

Fast forward three years, to when these early claimers turn 65.  They’re about as healthy as those who decided to wait until age 65 to start receiving their Social Security retirement benefits, according to preliminary findings from a study using Medicare spending data as a proxy for health.  The early claimers are also far healthier than people who left the labor force early to go on federal disability.

Some 8,500 older Americans were in the study’s sample, and they fell into four different groups: those who claimed a reduced Social Security pension soon after turning 62; those who claimed a larger pension at 65; those who were awarded a Social Security disability benefit before turning 62; and those who applied for disability but were denied and then claimed their retirement benefit after age 62. …Learn More

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