February 2019

women blowing sparkles

Depression Abates When Women Hit 60

Motherhood, career anxiety, menopause – women, throughout their lives, move from one psychological stressor to the next.

Well, ladies, there’s hope: your stress should start to ease around age 60.

With the #MeToo movement against workplace abuse of young adult women dominating the headlines, there’s a quieter movement of baby boomer women exploring what it means to get old. Book publishers are flocking to writers of self-actualization books like “Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age” and “50 After 50: Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life.”

Perhaps publishers sense a market for these books because women of all ages suffer depression at rates two to four times higher than men. But a study in the journal Maturitas finds that many women shed their depression as they move from their mid-40s into their 60s.

To pinpoint individuals’ psychological changes over time, this study analyzed the group of women who participated in a telephone survey from beginning to end, 1992 to 2012.

The women, who live Melbourne, Australia, were asked a battery of questions to determine whether they were depressed – questions about whether they felt optimistic or discontented, socially engaged or lonely, impatient or cheerful, clear thinking or confused.

They were also asked whether they suffered from bad moods, which can be a precursor to depression. The researchers found that the women’s moods improved significantly as they aged. …Learn More

Baby Boomer Labor Force Rebounds

One way baby boomers adjust to longer lifespans and inadequate retirement savings is to continue working. There’s just one problem: it can be more difficult for some people in their 50s and 60s to get or hold on to a job.

But things are improving. The job market is on a tear – 300,000 people were hired in January alone – and baby boomers are jumping back in. A single statistic illustrates this: a bump up in their labor force participation that resumes a long-term trend of rising participation since the 1980s.

In January, 65.1 percent of Americans between ages 55 and 64 were in the labor force, up smartly from 63.9 percent in 2015. This has put a halt to a downturn that began after the 2008-2009 recession, which pushed many boomers out of the labor force. The labor force is made up of people who are employed or looking for work.

The recent gains don’t seem transitory either. According to a 2024 projection by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the older labor force will continue to grow.  The biggest change will be among the oldest populations: a 4.5 percent increase in the number of 65- to 74-year olds in the labor force, and a 6.4 percent increase over age 75. …Learn More

High Drug Prices Erode Part D Coverage

Medicare Part D, passed in 2003, has significantly reduced seniors’ spending on prescription drugs. But the coverage hasn’t protected Leslie Ross from near calamity.

The 72-year-old diabetic needs insulin to stay alive. The prices of these drugs have skyrocketed, forcing her to supplement her long-lasting insulin, Lantus, with more frequent use of a less-expensive insulin. This one remains in her body only four hours, requiring more vigilance to control her blood sugar.

To cut her Lantus bills – nearly $1,700 this year – she has sometimes resorted to buying unused supplies from other diabetics on eBay. “You take your chances when you do stuff like that,” she said. “I checked that the vial hasn’t been opened. It still had the lavender cap on it.” She also reuses syringes.

The issue facing retirees like Ross is an erosion of financial protections under their Part D prescription drug coverage because of spiraling drug prices. New medications are hitting the market at very high initial prices, and the cost of older, once-affordable drugs increase year after year, said Juliette Cubanski, director of Medicare policy for the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

“A fundamental problem when it comes to people’s ability to afford their prescription drugs is the high prices charged for many of these medications,” she said.

Part D has no annual cap on how much retirees have to pay out of their own pockets for prescriptions. A new Kaiser report finds that retirees’ spending on specialty drugs – defined as costing more than $670 per month – can range from $2,700 to $16,500 per year. Specialty drugs include Lantus, Zepatier for hepatitis C, Humira for rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer drugs like Idhifa, which treats leukemia.

They “can be a real retirement savings drainer,” especially for very sick seniors, said Mary Johnson of the Seniors Citizens League, a non-profit advocacy group. …Learn More

Social Security cards

Tweaking Social Security for the Future

Social Security remains as vital today as it was after its 1935 passage. But advocates for the nation’s most vulnerable retirees have proposed ways to enhance their benefits.

Consider the minimum benefit. Put on the books in the early 1970s, its goal was to prevent poverty among retirees who had worked for decades in low-paying jobs. The benefit’s value has diminished due to a design flaw that rendered it largely ineffective.

A recent policy brief by the Center for Retirement Research analyzed various modest proposals to increase the minimum benefit and improve low-income retirees’ financial security.

This brief was the last in a series on modernizing Social Security. The relatively low cost of these proposals, many of which have bipartisan support, could be offset by benefit reductions for less-vulnerable retirees. The House of Representatives is planning hearings later this year looking into ways benefits might be enhanced.

The following are synopses of the policy problems and proposals discussed in the other briefs and covered in previous blogs: …Learn More

Careers Become Dicey After Age 50

A new study lays out all the difficulties older workers have holding onto a job so they can retire on their own terms – even when the economy is doing well.

Over the past quarter of a century, more than half of the older Americans who had been employed in stable jobs have been pushed or nudged out of employment at some point late in their careers. This could’ve happened due to a layoff, a bad supervisor, difficult or dangerous working conditions, inadequate pay or a missed promotion.

This finding from a Urban Institute study throws into question “the notion that most seasoned workers who are strongly attached to the labor force can remain at work and earn a stable income until they choose to retire,” the researchers said.

The study details the many challenges older workers are dealing with: …Learn More

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Check Out Our Retirement Podcasts

Thousands of baby boomers retire every day and sign up for Social Security. Yet the payroll tax that funds their benefits is being levied on a shrinking share of workers’ aggregate earnings.

You might not know this but inequality and growing U.S. trade with China are among the forces that are behind this trend, Gal Wettstein explains in a new podcast about his research for the Center for Retirement Research (CRR).

This is the latest in a series of podcast interviews in which CRR researchers talk about their work on issues related to work, aging, and retirement. The podcasts are hosted by yours truly.

Others explore how motherhood reduces women’s Social Security benefits, the limited impact of cognitive decline on older workers, and the disparate impact of the same retirement age on different types of workers.

The podcasts – “CRR essentials” – are available in iTunes and online on the Center’s website. …Learn More

Women’s Wealth Gap Exceeds Pay Gap

If the difference in men and women’s pay is a gap, then the wealth difference can only be described as a chasm.

Women earn 80 cents for each dollar a man earns. But a woman has 32 cents of net worth to a man’s dollar.

One byproduct of the #MeToo movement is the fresh light it has put on the age-old women’s issues of unequal professional status and pay.  But Elena Chavez Quezada, senior director of the San Francisco Foundation, explains in this video that wealth – home equity and financial assets minus debts – provides a more accurate picture of financial stability over the long-term.

A 2018 report found that net worth for older women, adjusted for inflation, has actually declined over the past two decades.

“If we are going to build women’s economic security, we have to talk about income and wealth inequality,” said Quezada, whose foundation promotes economic security for women and minorities.

Of course, wealth can’t be separated from pay. Women are able to save less, because they earn less and are more likely to have part-time jobs. A smaller share of them have a retirement plan at work than men, and the typical female worker saves 6 percent of her pay, compared with 10 percent for men, according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

Although single women have slightly higher rates of homeownership than single men, if a woman can’t afford as large a down payment as a man, she starts out with less home equity.

Older women of color saw the largest decline in their net worth, according to the 2018 report, which was conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Work and the non-profit Asset Funders Network. …Learn More

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