January 3, 2017
Our Readers’ Favorite Blogs in 2016
The 10 articles that received the most attention from our readers last year are ranked below in the order of their total page views. Retiree taxes and Medicare made up the top three:
Why Most Elderly Pay No Federal Tax
Medicare Advantage: Know the Pitfalls
Federal Taxation Drops for Retirees
Financial Fallout from Gray Divorce
Stress is One Reason People Retire
How Many Years Can You Do Your Job? …Learn More
December 20, 2016
Financial Misinformation Shared Online
My mother sent an anxious email that included the above picture, which one of her elderly friends had emailed to her as a warning about coming tax increases.
“Have you seen this?” my mother asked in her email.
I’m glad she inquired, because it took 15 seconds to learn on factcheck.org that this misleading information has made the rounds on the Internet for three years in a row, updated to the new year – 2017 this time.
There are nuggets of truth in the misinformation above. The Medicare tax already increased as part of the Affordable Care Act. However, it applies only to employed couples earning more than $250,000 and employed individuals earning more than $200,000. The retirees living in my mother’s very modest senior community – and most working Americans – are not affected. Yet “shocking” information like this rears its head over and over again on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
At a time that misinformation is deliberately being fabricated, and one such lie coursing through the Internet even spurred gun violence at a Washington, D.C., family pizza joint, it’s time to bring attention to false financial information that, unwittingly, people may be sharing online. …Learn More
December 13, 2016
Retirement Isn’t Always Fair
More than half of older Americans with the lowest socioeconomic status can expect to face an income gap if they retire when they’re planning to.
That finding is from a study by the Center for Retirement Research, which supports this blog. The researchers quantified and compared the gaps in the retirement preparedness of more than 3,000 older U.S. households, grouped by four levels of educational attainment.
First, the researchers estimated the target income that each working household will need in retirement to maintain its current standard of living. That target income will be less than its current income from working, because retirees no longer need to save money, and they pay less in taxes. Then, the researchers projected the income each household will actually have – at each different retirement age – from their Social Security, employer retirement plans, regular savings, and home equity.
When a household’s projected income reaches the target, that’s the age at which they can expect to retire comfortably. But people don’t necessarily make decisions that are in their best financial interest. …
December 8, 2016
Inside the Minds of Older Workers
A decade of research into the impact of cognitive aging shows that workers throughout their 50s and 60s are generally just as productive as the younger people working alongside them.
A new summary of this research, by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, explains how older people are able to adapt to the gradual loss of brain mass in the parts of the brain associated with memory and an ability to think on one’s feet – their “fluid intelligence.”
The highly skilled pharmacy profession is a good example of how workers in their 50s or 60s adjust to this changing dynamic. These pharmacists have an advantage over their younger coworkers in what psychologists call “crystallized intelligence,” which is the deep reserve of information stored up over decades of working in their profession. They can no longer process drug interactions and other new information as rapidly as they once did. But they can tap into their reserves to solve the myriad issues that crop up in their work. This crystallized intelligence – for pharmacists and many other types of skilled jobs – is effectively making up for their loss of fluid intelligence.
Interestingly, older workers who execute routine tasks usually aren’t at risk of aging out of their jobs for cognitive reasons either. That’s because even though their fluid intelligence is in decline, they have more than enough of it in reserve to complete their relatively simple tasks.
While the majority of older workers do not lose their productivity due to cognitive aging, two groups are vulnerable. One group is those for whom the work demands on their fluid intelligence are extremely high. A 2009 study of air traffic controllers highlighted this challenge – and demonstrates the logic behind a Federal Aviation Authority requirement that controllers retire at age 56. …Learn More
December 1, 2016
Retirees’ Tax Puzzle: Pay Now or Later?
The majority of retirees pay no federal taxes. But taxes should be a concern for retirees who have retirement savings. That’s because the money they take out of their retirement accounts for living expenses will be treated as federal taxable income. It’s difficult enough to figure out how much money to withdraw – and when. Taxes are a separate but related issue.
In this blog, we interviewed Michael Kitces, a well-known financial adviser and partner with a Maryland financial firm, who writes the “Nerd’s Eye View” blog. He discusses the basics of navigating the tax code. The challenge facing retirees is to make tax decisions today that will minimize taxes now and in the future.
Question: Do you find that new retirees are surprised by their retirement tax situation?
Kitces: It’s usually not even on their radar screen. Pre-tax and post-tax income, different tax buckets – I don’t think most people even think about it once they’re in retirement. That’s why we’re still seeing people who are “surprised” when they turn 70½ and the required minimum distributions (RMDs) begin, and their tax bill gets a whole lot higher. They say, “Why didn’t we plan for this?” We say, “We’ve been recommending you plan for this for years!” …Learn More
November 29, 2016
Caring for Her Elderly Parents 24/7
Taking care of her elderly parents is Vivian Gibson’s full-time job.
The last two weeks in October weren’t so unusual. She tended to her 86-year-old father for several days in the hospital – another episode in his unending battle with ankle sores stemming from service in the Korean War. Gibson also helped her mother, age 81, get through a medical procedure and chauffeured both parents to more than a dozen doctor’s appointments and to their dentist. Her mother has been dealing with a pulled tooth, along with abnormal cells in her bladder and an abnormal EKG.
In addition to their medical needs, Gibson helps them with everything else, from cleaning and dressing her father’s wound daily to buying their groceries and cleaning up the yard. Her parents live in Bartow in central Florida, about 20 minutes from Gibson’s home in the country, and she’s always on call in case her father falls again.
Yet she remains surprisingly upbeat, unfazed by a non-existent social life and a caregiving burden made heavier by the fact she is an only child. “There is never any respite,” she said. “I have to work my doctor’s appointments in around theirs. My mother keeps telling me, ‘Don’t get sick. You can’t get sick!’ ”
To help her parents, Gibson retired from a local hospital just shy of her 59th birthday. She’s now 61 and premature retirement has strained, though not broken her financially. She drained most of her $17,000 emergency fund to meet regular expenses and reluctantly dipped into her IRAs and past employers’ retirement savings plans. Her combined balance is down to $300,000 – or about $12,000 lighter than when she retired, despite a rising stock market. Her lifeline has been a $24,000 pension from her work in state government.
“I wanted to travel,” she said – Australia, New Zealand, Canada – “but I don’t have the money – or the time – for that.” …Learn More
November 15, 2016
The Needs of Working Folks
“The economy” was the top priority for the vast majority of American people in one poll last summer. Surely, what they were talking about was quality jobs and economic and financial security for themselves and their children.
Or as my brother, a father of three and service manager at an auto dealership outside Chicago, put it in a recent text message, “No one can afford anything anymore.”
This simple idea seemed to resound throughout the primaries and long presidential campaign. With the election over, I compiled the following wish list for working people based on what the polls and research studies reveal about what they are hoping for.
Good jobs. The disruption created by the transition from an industrial to a service economy has hollowed out the middle over three decades. Despite a remarkably low unemployment rate of 4.9 percent, middle-skill workers face a dilemma: there are a lot of jobs, but most aren’t the right jobs for them.
Consider this detail in the October jobs report. Retail employment increased by a total of 38,000 in August, September, and October. These jobs pay, on average, $553 per week. Meanwhile, 12,000 goods-producing jobs were lost during the same three months, meaning that fewer people are earning industry’s average weekly wage of $1,100. The urgent question is, what are the potential jobs that will bolster the middle class? Healthcare and telecommunications technicians for the New Economy? A related question is, what are the vocational and policy paths to securing better-paying jobs?
Cash on hand. Working Americans are severely strapped for cash. One in three surveyed by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation said they probably could not come up with $2,000 to cover an unexpected expense in the next month, and nearly half said they can’t pay off their full credit card balances every month. While working people are benefiting from the stronger economy, Finra concluded, “large segments of society continue to face financial difficulties, particularly minority populations and those without a college education.” …Learn More