November 18, 2014
Pension Cuts Could Hurt Worker Quality
Cuts in public pensions taking place around the country could reduce the ability of state and local governments to recruit and retain top-quality workers, according to new findings by the Center for Retirement Research, which sponsors this blog.
Economists have long argued that pensions and worker quality are related. Pensions, like paychecks, are a form of compensation, one that particularly appeals to workers with the foresight to value financial security in a retirement still decades away. And these are often better, more productive workers.
To examine the effect of pension generosity on worker quality, the Center’s researchers first had to find good measures of each. For worker quality, they used U.S. Census Bureau survey data on workers who have moved between the public and private sectors. The data show that private-sector wages paid to those leaving government were consistently higher than the private-sector wages of people leaving the private sector to work in government – about 7 percent higher, on average, between 1980 and 2012. This wage difference represents the “quality gap” among workers. …Learn More
August 21, 2014
Wanna Be a Homeowner? Take a Class
In case anyone has forgotten, buying a home can be damaging to your financial health.
But prospective first-time homeowners may want to take advantage of still-low mortgage interest rates and the recent, slower increases in house prices. Homebuyer classes can provide an excellent crash course in the mysteries of mortgages, maintenance, taxes, and risks – information that can help preclude the kind of mistakes made during the subprime mortgage crisis.
There’s a tool on the website of the federal government’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to search for first-time homebuyer classes and housing counselors. Enter your desired zip code here to find classes and counselors nearby.
The agencies listed appear to be mostly non-profits and were approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It’s wise to do some research on a specific agency to find out where the non-profit’s underlying funding comes from and what services it offers.
So, is now a good time to buy a house? Conventional wisdom says this depends on how long the buyer intends to live in the house – the longer the better to cover the high upfront costs of buying and moving and to ride out price fluctuations in the housing market. …Learn More
July 31, 2014
Graduates Struggle for Autonomy
If buying a house or having children were once hallmarks of being a grown-up, something more basic marks a successful transition to adulthood today: financial self-sufficiency.
Only half of more than 1,000 freshmen who entered the University of Arizona in 2007 and were tracked over time by researchers Joyce Serido and Soyeon Shim were employed full-time in 2013. And only half of these full-time workers, ranging in age from 23 to 26 years old, supported themselves without help from family members.
These young adults, mostly graduated, overwhelmingly said that achieving financial independence was critical, according to Serido and Shim’s new report, “Life After College: Drivers for Young Adult Success.” But achieving independence has been difficult due to unprecedented borrowing for college and a post-Great Recession job market that’s been described as “bleak” for young adults.
While the economy certainly poses hurdles, the report concludes that too many young adults fail to take responsibility for their personal finances. Recent graduates were grouped into three levels of financial behavior: high-functioning, rebounding, and struggling. Which one is you or your child? …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:
May 27, 2014
Attending College if Your Parents Didn’t
Education has historically been the most powerful way for children of the U.S. working class to brighten their futures. But as the cost of college rises, they must climb taller and taller mountains to attend.
The ideal for college – an ideal still pursued by students whose parents can afford it – is to attend full-time and focus on one thing: their studies. But five untraditional students who were profiled in a new documentary say they must juggle their multiple pressing priorities:
- Work, sometimes full-time, to support themselves or help support parents or siblings.
- Maintain a high grade point average after poor high school preparation.
- Inadequate financial aid packages and parents who are unable to help.
- Parents who may not understand the college financial aid process.
- Complexities of transferring credits from a community college to a four-year institution.
Like many untraditional students, Sharon Flores is the first generation in her family to attend college. This top high school student and daughter of a single mother explains her struggle to attend King’s College in Pennsylvania in the documentary, “Redefining Access for the 21st Century Student,” which was produced by the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington. …Learn More
May 22, 2014
1 in 3 Late in Paying Student Debt
About one in three Americans trying to pay down their student loans is 90 days or more late on their payments, according to a new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
This is up sharply from a decade ago, when one in five people in repayment was that far behind.
The Federal Reserve estimates that 31% was the “effective” delinquency rate in 2012; it applies only to people who have actively been in repayment. The bank said this rate is a more accurate measure of the problem than the widely reported rate for 90-day delinquencies – 17 percent – which includes all borrowers, including current students and those who’ve been granted some type of loan payment deferral.
The report, “Measuring Student Debt and Its Performance,” provides more evidence that college debt is a major financial burden for a growing numbers of Americans. Between 2004 and 2012, the number of people borrowing for college has nearly doubled to about 39 million, and the total debt outstanding has nearly tripled to $1 trillion and now exceeds the nation’s credit card debt.
Delinquencies, by any measure, are higher for student debt than for any other type of U.S. consumer debt, including credit cards. The pace of delinquencies is also accelerating, according to the Federal Reserve.
Other trends highlighted in its report include: …Learn More
April 29, 2014
Pay Gap: Depends on Woman’s Age
The earnings gap between working men and women has narrowed somewhat over time, but it’s considerably wider for older women.
Women who are now on the cusp of retirement and working full-time earn 67.5 cents for every dollar men their age earn – or 8 cents more than working women who were the same age (in their late 50s and early 60s) during the 1970s.
For younger women, the pay gap persists but things are brighter. Women in their late 20s and early 30s today earn 84 cents for every dollar a young man earns. That’s a 20 cent gain over women who were their age back in 1970.
These are among the myriad statistics documenting the history of the pay gap in the new (7th) edition of the economics textbook, “Economics of Women, Men, and Work.”
The pay gap affects women’s ability to save, buy a house, and invest. There are several explanations for why younger women have made more progress, relative to men, say the textbooks’ authors, Francine Blau, Anne Winkler, and Marianne Ferber: …