December 4, 2014
How to Think About Self-Control
“Self-control” is a catch-all label for resisting all sorts of temptations, including overspending. According to a new study, controlling overspending can be broken down into three distinct behaviors:
• Setting goals such as buying a house or saving money.
• Monitoring bank statements to systematically track where your money goes.
• Committing to the goal in the face of short-term temptations to spend.
Data for the study came from a nationally representative U.S. survey of households over age 50. The survey has extensive information about the households’ finances and about each individual’s resolve to set goals, track their finances, and carry out their commitments – whether financial or non-financial.
Households lacking self-control disproportionately have lower net worth – no surprise there. The largest effect is on their liquid financial assets, such as checking and savings accounts and IRAs. Impulsive consumption “is more likely to have an immediate impact on liquid holdings than on illiquid assets,” such as property, said the researchers, who are from Goethe University in Frankfurt.
More interesting is their analysis of the role played by self-control’s three individual components. The study found that the third ingredient – the ability to stick to commitments – draws the darkest line between success and failure in accumulating net worth.
But the researchers also divided net worth into “real wealth” – homes, other property, or vehicles – and financial wealth, which is more easily liquidated than property. Commitment again proved most important in determining whether people own property. But when it comes to accumulating financial wealth, monitoring one’s finances plays the largest role.
Everyone talks about self-control. This study clarifies what it is.
November 11, 2014
Paid Sick Time Wins on Ballots
In last Tuesday’s election, voters in Massachusetts and three cities – Oakland, California, and Montclair and Trenton, New Jersey – approved paid sick time initiatives that benefit working mothers in particular.
These election results come on the heels of a slew of similar initiatives approved in the past year covering all or certain groups of workers in California and in San Diego, Washington, DC; Eugene, Oregon; several New Jersey municipalities; and the Tacoma suburb of SeaTac, according to an inventory of sick time laws compiled by the advocacy group, A Better Balance.
Mandated paid sick time for employees is growing in popularity but is still unavailable to significant numbers of working mothers, who, the data show, are more often responsible for children’s health than fathers. This issue is one more thing that – like lower pay – can disadvantage single women struggling to secure their personal finances today or save for retirement in the future, especially low-income women.
Research by Usha Ranji, associate director of women’s health policy for the health care non-profit organization, the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that 39 percent of working moms are forced to miss work when a child is sick, because they don’t have back-up child care; of them, 60 percent do not get paid for that time – a decade ago, fewer than half of this group were in this position. …Learn More
October 14, 2014
A Thriving Underground Money Culture
Recent immigrants – whether from Mexico, Africa or China – often form groups that regularly contribute to a pool of money. Group members then take turns pulling out $500 or $1,000 in accumulated cash.
These savings groups are one aspect of a pervasive underground money culture bustling beneath the surface in U.S. communities of immigrants and other low-income workers.
Savings groups are one of four types of “informal” financial arrangements identified in a new report, “An Invisible Finance Sector: How Households Use Financial Tools of Their Own Making.” These arrangements create a strong social commitment to saving typically absent in the formal U.S. banking system.
The four arrangements discussed in the report are:
- Savings groups, also known as lending circles, which are primarily found in immigrant communities.
- Interpersonal loans.
- Storing more than $100 in cash at home.
- Money guards who safeguard someone else’s savings. …
September 9, 2014
How Much For the 401(k)? Depends.
How much must 30-somethings save in their 401(k)s to prevent a decline in their living standard after they retire?
No two people are alike, but the Center for Retirement Research estimates the typical 35 year old who hopes to retire at 65 should sock away 15 percent of his earnings, starting now. Prefer to retire at 62? Hike that to 24 percent. To get the percent deducted from one’s paycheck down into the single digits, young adults should start saving in their mid-20s and think about retiring at 67.
These retirement savings rates are taken from the table below showing the Center’s recent estimates of how much workers of various ages should save to achieve a comfortable retirement; they represent the worker’s contribution plus the employer’s contribution on their worker’s behalf. Expressed as a percent of their earnings, they also vary depending when a worker retires.
To derive these savings rates, the Center’s economists assumed that a retired household with mid-level earnings needs 70 percent of its past earnings. They then subtracted out the household’s anticipated Social Security benefits. The rest has to come from employer retirement savings plans, which determine the percent of pay required to reach the 70 percent “replacement rate.” …Learn More
July 8, 2014
Millennials and Money: Women Trail Men
Millennial women may have higher expectations about their financial prospects than their baby-boomer mothers.
But Millennial women, just like their mothers, are earning less than their male counterparts and saving less for retirement.
The vast majority of single and married men and women, ages 22 through 33, said they recognize the need to save, whether as a defense against economic uncertainty or in response to the onus on each U.S. worker to prepare for his or her own retirement.
A major reason cited for not saving is “not having enough money to save right now.” This is especially germane for women: for example, the median annual income for Millennial women is $45,000, while their male counterparts earn $61,000.
Women, on the other hand, would make wiser choices about what they’d do with a $5,000 windfall: they’d be less likely than men to spend the windfall and more likely to save it or use it to pay down debt.
Harris Poll conducted the nationally representative online survey of 1,600 Millennial households for Wells Fargo. In addition to single Millennials, married and single mothers were also surveyed, and child-rearing responsibilities likely reduced the incomes reported by women.
Nevertheless, Millennial women trail their male peers in five financial benchmarks shown below:
June 19, 2014
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. …
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