September 25, 2014
Seniors’ Housing Cost Burden on Rise
For a growing share of older Americans, housing expenses have become an increasingly large financial burden.
One 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
September 18, 2014
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
August 19, 2014
Retirees Live on Less
Many recent U.S. retirees in a new survey receive less than two-thirds of what they earned during their working years, and they’ve made significant adjustments along the way.
That finding for baby boomers who’ve retired in the past five years is contained in a larger national survey conducted by T. Rowe Price, the Baltimore mutual fund company. The full survey covered some 2,500 working and retired individuals, age 50 and over. All of them have at least some savings in a 401(k) account.
The majority of the recent retirees reported their annual income is between $25,000 and $100,000. Social Security is the largest single source of that income, and smaller but equal shares come from defined benefit pensions and from retirement savings plans.
Many of the retirees report their households are managing to get by on less than the 70 percent to 80 percent of their pre-retirement income that most financial planners and retirement experts estimate they need. And four out of 10 are living on 60 percent or less.
The retirees surveyed said they’ve had to lower their living standards, and four out of 10 described their situation as adjusting “a great deal.” …Learn More
August 7, 2014
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.
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
June 12, 2014
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: …
May 14, 2014
Low Income: Why Only 12% Save to Retire
A new study estimating that just 12 percent of low-income older Americans save in a 401(k) or similar employer retirement plan also suggests that many more would save – if only they could.
The researchers – April Yanyuan Wu, Matt Rutledge, and Jacob Penglase of the Center for Retirement Research – focused on individuals between ages 50 and 58 with household incomes below three times the poverty line. That was less than $36,357 in 2010 for a one-person household, for example, and less than $46,800 for two people. The period studied spans 1992 through 2010.
Retirement saving primarily takes place in workplace plans. But to participate in a plan, workers must clear four hurdles. First, they need a job. Next, their employer must offer a retirement savings plan. If there is a plan, they must be eligible to participate. And if eligible, they must sign up and contribute.
A failure to sign up can’t be blamed for the dismal savings rate of this low-income group. Instead, the problem is that many never get the chance. …Learn More
February 18, 2014
How Divorce Affects Women’s Earnings
In the aftermath of the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the incidence of divorce climbed, peaking around 1980.
Millions of women were suddenly on their own at a time when women were still having to prove themselves to many employers. But I remember being impressed by a college friend’s mother whose divorce wasn’t the disaster her family feared: she marched into a high-profile non-profit in Chicago and landed an impressive job.
It’s been well established in academic research that women often face financial struggles after divorce. Married women are typically better off, since couples can live more cheaply and since two incomes are better than one.
But a new long-term study of women who divorced during the mid-1970s indicates there were “positive effects of marital dissolution:” higher earnings. …Learn More