June 10, 2014
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
June 5, 2014
Test Yourself for Dementia
Dementia is a critical personal finance issue when so much is at stake in managing, investing, and spending one’s lifetime savings. But one study found that, in the vast majority of older couples, the person in charge of managing the household finances continues to do so after dementia sets in.
Dementia can be difficult to perceive in oneself or a spouse or parent, because changes are usually so gradual, psychologists say.
Individuals can now get a rough assessment of their own or a loved one’s cognitive abilities with a test posted on the website of Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. Spokeswoman Elaine Scahill said more than 900,000 people have downloaded the test since it went online in mid-January as a public service.
The test, appropriately named SAGE – for Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam – is similar to others used by mental health professionals as an initial screen; another one is the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. …
June 3, 2014
Long-Term Care: Winging It
Americans have a very good chance of entering a long-term care facility. New research at the Center for Retirement Research, which sponsors this blog, finds that 44 percent of older men and 58 percent of older women will likely enter such a facility for at least a short stay.
Only 29 percent of adults age 40 and over, however, are “extremely” or “very” confident they’ll have enough resources to pay for such care, or for other types of care they may need in old age, according to a survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, an independent survey organization based at the University of Chicago.
The AP-NORC poll also revealed that people are poorly informed about how much care will cost if they need it.
They tend to underestimate how much nursing homes cost (about $6,900 a month) and overestimate the cost of a part-time aide coming to their home to help with personal care such as cooking or bathing (about $1,150 a month); their estimates about the cost of assisted living facilities (about $3,400 a month) were either too high or too low.
An additional complication, according to Jennifer Benz, NORC’s senior research scientist, is that “people don’t understand how the financing of long-term care works in the U.S.” The distinct roles of Medicare and Medicaid, in particular, caused great confusion. …Learn More
May 29, 2014
More Plan Funerals Than Plan Elder Care
More adults are planning their funerals than are making arrangements for care in their final years of life.
That’s among the revealing findings about how Americans grapple with the inevitabilities of old age in an annual survey about U.S. attitudes toward long-term care. More than 1,400 adults were surveyed in March and April by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (NORC is a social science research organization affiliated with the University of Chicago.)
“Experts believe that, like any other long-term financial planning, long-term care planning is the kind of thing you should get started with as soon as possible,” said Jennifer Benz, a senior research scientist for AP-NORC. But for many people, “it’s not even on their radar,” she said.
Nearly two out of three adults over age 40 said they have discussed funeral plans with family or others they trust, and more than half have also created a so-called advanced directive specifying how they would like their medical care to be handled if they become incapacitated.
While death and mortal illness are on people’s minds, there’s scant thinking about their long-term care arrangements. More than two-thirds reported they have done “little or no planning” for how they’ll be cared for in old age. …Learn More
May 20, 2014
Medicare Advantage Enrollment Doubles
Enrollment in the Medicare Advantage plans that private insurers offer as an alternative to traditional Medicare coverage has more than doubled over the past decade, the Kaiser Foundation reports.
The share of the Medicare population enrolled in these private plans is 30 percent, up from 13 percent in 2005, the non-profit foundation said.
The reason for this dramatic growth: Medicare Advantage became a better deal for older Americans in the wake of a 2003 increase in federal subsidies to insurance companies offering the plans.
The federal government subsidizes insurers through its reimbursements for the care they cover for older Americans enrolled in Medicare Advantage. Those payments were increased in 2003. Insurers responded by reducing beneficiaries’ copayments and cost-sharing in the plans and by providing medical services not always available to people who enroll directly in Medicare and purchase Medigap policies, said Gretchen Jacobson, an associate director of Kaiser’s Medicare policy program.
The extra services include gym memberships, eye glasses, dental care, and preventive medical care. To rein in their overall medical costs, Medicare Advantage plans restrict the hospitals and doctors that patients can use. …Learn More
May 8, 2014
Where We Live: the Mom Magnet
Despite the growing tendency of Americans to migrate around the country for a job or retirement, half of all adults still live less than 25 miles from their mothers.
Such details about basic family living patterns were described in this video featuring Janice Compton, an economist with the University of Manitoba, who conducts research on the relationship between geographic proximity to older parents and who cares for them.
The vast majority of hands-on caregivers are family members. And elderly women, who tend to live longer than men, are more often the ones who receive care from their children.
To determine who’s most likely to stay near mom – and be in a position to assume care-giving duties – Compton and Robert Pollak at Washington University analyzed data from the U.S. Census and the National Survey of Families and Households for adults over age 25. Here’s what they found: …Learn More
April 22, 2014
Job Quality Matters
The nation’s job market regained some of its momentum in March. But it’s not just getting a job that’s key to gaining financial security – it’s about getting and keeping a quality job.
In a recent report, the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University used interviews with workers around the country to identify three aspects of a job – beyond the size of the paycheck – that help people save money and bolster their financial security. [Excerpts from some of the interviews are shown.]
The report also gave some indications of how common it is for workers to go without them:
Benefits – Employer health care, disability insurance, a 401(k) retirement plan with an employer savings match, tuition credits – these benefits help workers save more, shield them against risk, and protect their paychecks by subsidizing some living costs. But the service sector, one of the largest segments of the U.S. labor force, is particularly poor in providing such benefits.
Flexibility – Without sick days and similar arrangements, workers risk losing their jobs due to an illness or unanticipated event. …Learn More