Posts Tagged "psychology"

To be Old is to be Happy

age and happiness chartAround age 58, people start getting happier. That’s what the research shows, and this blogger can attest to it.

In the new video displayed below, Rocio Calvo, a Boston College professor of social work, offers up theories for the happiness phenomenon – financial security is one. She also has some particularly striking “happiness statistics” on Hispanics and immigrants.

All over Boston College, academics are studying aging issues, which complement the financial and economic research turned out by the Center for Retirement Research, which sponsors this blog.   Calvo’s video is part of a series of videos by the multidisciplinary Institute on Aging at Boston College.

It’s interesting viewing for older people and their families, with apologies for the regression table (the significance of which quickly becomes clear if you stick with it).

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portlandia art

Portlandia Trashes “Instant Garbage”

Hilarious examples of “instant garbage” are offered up in this Portlandia clip by the show’s characters, Bryce Shivers and Lisa Eversman (played by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein).

The price point for an unwanted consumer product that becomes instant garbage is $4.99.  “We found the exact point between price and hassle that guarantees you won’t bother returning” the product, Eversman explains in the video below.

Is the following theory a stretch? There seems to be a direct line between Americans’ relentless buying of stuff we do not need and our inadequate attempts at saving money.

Try walking into a craft superstore or browsing Target’s $1 shelf and suddenly imagining the stuff all piled up at its ultimate destination, the local landfill.

Then walk back out and save the money for retirement.


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401(k) Nudges and Course Corrections

Nudge book coverBehavioral economist Richard Thaler, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize for economics, regards his field’s greatest contribution as showing that people are more likely to save if the saving happens automatically.

“I’m all for empowerment and education, but the empirical evidence is that it doesn’t work,” he said in a 2015 Wall Street Journal interview. “That’s why I say make it easy.”

To make saving for retirement easier, employers have increasingly turned to automated 401(k)s. Automation has taken two basic forms.  The first, automatically enrolling each employee, is pervasive and has had notable success in increasing participation in retirement savings plans.  The second form, automatically increasing the amount employees save – a concept originated by Thaler and economist Shlomo Benartzi – is catching on. It’s hoped that the second will correct a problem created by the first.

Last year, 45 percent of Vanguard’s client base used auto-enrollment plans, according to its “How America Saves 2017” report.  Historically, employees were asked to enroll in their employer’s 401(k). Today, more employers are – as Thaler would say – “nudging” workers by automatic enrolling them, usually when they are hired.  Although they then have the freedom to opt out, inertia tends to keep them in the plans.

Participation in all types of 401(k)s has roughly increased in lock-step with the spread of auto-enrollment.  Last year, 79 percent of workers participated in Vanguard-administered plans, up from 68 percent a decade ago, when a new federal pension law made auto-enrollment more appealing to employers.

The irony, however, is that while auto-enrollment encourages more people to save, Vanguard partly blamed a 2016 drop in employee contributions on their popularity. The average employee contribution in all types of 401(k) plans declined from 6.9 percent in 2015 of pay to 6.2 last year, well below the 7.3 percent rate prior to the Great Recession, according to Vanguard. …
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array of different workers

Older Americans Handling Work Demands

Older workers face fewer headwinds and better working conditions than their younger co-workers, according to the first analysis of a new survey of 3,900 blue- and white-collar workers between ages 25 and 71.

The U.S. workplace overall is “very physically and emotionally taxing,” according to the study – that’s why they call it “work.”  Two out of three workers of all ages reported in the 2015 survey that they are often required to move at high speeds under tight deadlines, feeling intense pressure to accomplish too much in too little time.

But after people pass the age of 50, things get a little easier.  Older workers report having more flexible work schedules, more predictable hours, fewer scheduling changes, less stress, and greater ease in arranging time off to take care of personal matters, the analysis found.

Their workplace situation isn’t all rosy.  Larger shares of older workers feel under-employed or have unsupportive bosses – this held true whether they had college degrees or not.

The analysis of the new American Working Conditions Survey (AWCS), by researchers led by Nicole Maestas at Harvard Medical School and recently published in an e-book, is an introduction to what will inevitably be more research using this new, publicly available data. The AWCS might, for example, provide new fodder for studying the factors that influence older Americans to continue working or to retire.

The new study found some striking differences between older and younger workers – and among different groups of older workers: …Learn More

Beach Reads for and about Old Folks

The Accomplished Guest coverCan't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?Die Laughing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who wants to spend their beach vacation reading about growing older? These recommendations just might surprise you.

“The Accomplished Guest” by Ann Beattie

Ann Beattie’s 1983 book of short stories, “The Burning House,” explored the drift, emotional detachment, and cynicism of boomers, whose worldview was darkened by Watergate. That book made Beattie’s reputation, and she has been prolific ever since, including regular appearances in The New Yorker.  Her 2017 short story volume, “The Accomplished Guest,” is, for now, a bookend to “The Burning House” (Beattie is only 69 and no doubt has more books in her). While baby boom skepticism remains a central theme, her characters have developed a little heart and sentimentality over the years. I particularly liked “Company,” about an older couple entertaining newlyweds at their Maine summer house (one advantage of getting older).  All night, Henry ruminates about his death.  But as this glorious summer evening draws to a close, he finds reason to celebrate his friendship with the much younger Jackson.  Jackson is still decades away from facing his own mortality, but tonight, they are “just two men – you know, any two men – passing time on the back porch.”

“Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” by Roz Chast  

For months, I ignored raving recommendations about Roz Chast’s book on how she navigated her parents’ old age. I should not have.  This book by the long-time New Yorker cartoonist is a poignant, laugh-out-loud funny examination of the guilt, love, memories, regrets, anger, and tenderness that churn inside adult children carrying their parents through the final stages of their lives. …Learn More

Get Paid What You’re Worth

 

“No one will ever pay you what you’re worth,” Casey Brown says in the Ted video above.

An employee’s value is also highest when unemployment is as low as it is now – 4.4 percent in April – and employers are scrambling to fill jobs.

Why would an employer pay more than it has to? With unions all but extinct, the burden falls on individuals to ensure they’re paid fairly or well.  Low unemployment provides workers with more leverage to get what we deserve. Unfortunately, many of us are not good at negotiating how much we earn.  Or we avoid it entirely, because we’re uncomfortable with talking money – especially women.

Women “say things like, ‘I don’t like to sing my own praises,’ ” Brown notes.

One time-honored way to test the waters is to get an offer for a job you might like that pays more than your current position. If your current employer values you, they’ll increase your pay to keep you. It can be a risky strategy.  In our free-wheeling labor “market,” however, it’s also the best way to learn what you’re worth, because there is only general information about compensation for different types of jobs.

In fact, management researcher David Burkus argues that the U.S. compensation system is built around secrecy.  “Keeping salaries secret leads to information asymmetry … [and] an employer can use that secrecy to save a lot of money,” he says in another Ted video. Translation: a lack of information makes it easier to under-pay you.

Unions know this. Historically, unions posted compensation in the different job tiers in each industry so workers would know what they were entitled to.

In place of unions, Elaine Varelas, recruiter for Keystone Partners in Boston, suggested other places to get this critical information: glassdoor.com, job recruiters, LinkedIn contacts, and even human resources executives at friends’ firms who might provide you with salary ranges.

“People owe it to themselves to do their homework and stop hiding under the discomfort,” Varelas says.

So get out there and learn something that will definitely be interesting – and possibly lucrative! Learn More

Goblin

Online Goblins Want Your Money

No longer simply a convenience for shoppers, the internet has come into its own: it is now an ingenious tool for squeezing money out of our wallets.

This realization first struck me last year while helping my brother and his wife in Chicago with a flight to visit our mom in Orlando. The reason I was on the case is that he’s a bit of a technophobe. But it turned out that his technical skills weren’t the issue – the airline’s website was the issue.

To flyers’ chagrin, most airlines are now a la carte operations, charging separate fees for everything from baggage to potato chips. This makes it difficult to compare fares online – one way we might wind up paying more. But things went wildly astray for my brother when he clicked on one airline’s website icon to pay his and his wife’s baggage fees a few days before flying.

He was hurled off to a webpage beseeching him to join some type of $200 promotional program that included “free” baggage.  The same thing happened when I tried the next day.  It took all of my online ingenuity to figure out how to avoid the promotion and pay only their $30 per bag fees. I wondered whether other flyers had been sucked into paying for this promotion.

These website diversions are different from what has become routine: advertisements popping up that try to get you to take the plunge and buy the consumer product you were researching online yesterday. It’s difficult to ascertain which diversions are cynical marketing ploys and which ones are innocent technical glitches. But all of them have the potential to be costly to unwary consumers.

During a brunch on Easter Sunday, two friends confirmed my concerns that this isn’t just an issue for older people – one of my friends who complained about online trickery is 95 years old but the other is a tech-savvy college freshman.

All web crawlers are familiar with offers of free subscription trials. These are also dangerous. …Learn More

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