October 4, 2022
Social Security Información – en Español
Alrededor del 14 por ciento de trabajadores y trabajadoras aquí hablan español. El Seguro Social tiene un sitio web para usted.
Translation: About 14 percent of the working-age population here speaks Spanish. Social Security has a website for you.
It’s critical that workers who speak only Spanish or are more comfortable with the language have a clear understanding of how Social Security benefits work. It’s estimated that Americans 65 and over receive just under a third of their income from the benefits, and lower-income people rely on it for much more than that.
Social Security’s Spanish-language website, which has been around in some form since the mid-1990s, provides general information about the program and also addresses issues especially relevant to this population. One example is an employer’s responsibility to report income for the one in four domestic workers in this country who are Latina.
Below are some of the general topics, as described on the website:
- Cómo funcionan los beneficios por jubilación. (How retirement benefits work.)
- Decidir cuándo comenzar los beneficios. (Deciding when to start the benefits.)
- Qué cosas adicionales puede afectar sus beneficios por jubilación. (Things that may affect benefits.)
- Lista de verificación para su jubilación. (Retirement checklist.)
September 22, 2022
Need for Low-Cost Retiree Housing is Urgent
San Francisco is caught in the vortex of two powerful forces: a fast-growing retiree population and rising rents.
Residents over 60 are expected to make up a fourth of the city’s residents by 2030, according to this video project for The San Francisco Standard by Chris Chang, a student in the University of California, Berkeley’s graduate journalism school.
And San Francisco rents, after collapsing during the pandemic as people left the city, are on the rise again. A one-bedroom apartment is going for $3,100 per month – second only to New York City – despite a rent control policy that limits annual rent increases.
A San Francisco retiree with an unusually onerous rent burden is Shao Yan-Zhen, whom Chang interviewed for the video. The rent soaks up nearly 70 percent of her and her husband’s modest retirement monthly income. They have been on a waiting list for a federally subsidized apartment for two decades and are among the two-thirds of retirees nationwide who qualify for the assistance but can’t get it due largely to a shortage of rental housing. …Learn More
July 26, 2022
Retirement’s a Struggle? Get a Boommate!
Soaring apartment rents and widowed or divorced baby boomers with spare bedrooms and inadequate retirement income – these two trends have conspired to drive up the number of boomers seeking roommates.
New listings being posted by homeowners between January and June on Silvernest, a website where boomers can search for potential roommates, doubled to 2,331 compared with the first six months of 2021, said Riley Gibson, president of Silvernest. Women account for two-thirds of the listings.
The end of the crisis phase of the pandemic and the availability of protective vaccines may have something to do with the recent surge in people being willing to share housing. And with rents up 14 percent in a year, renters – whether boomers or young adults – are looking for affordable options. “We often see [young] people are looking for an exchange for less rent – help around the house,” Riley said.
Millions of retirees still live alone and aren’t willing to let a roommate invade their space. Yet Jennifer Molinsky at Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies estimates that more than 1 million older Americans currently live with non-family members.
Finding a “boommate” has multiple benefits. In this PBS video, what motivated Becky Miller, a retired receptionist, to find a roommate was the need to defray the cost of maintaining her home. But by renting to a fellow boomer, Debra Mears, Miller found more than just financial relief.
By sharing her home, she also found companionship. …Learn More
July 21, 2022
Research to Look at Work, Retiring by Race
The racial disparities embedded in our work, retirement, and government systems will be front and center at the annual meeting of a national research consortium.
One of the presentations at the online meeting on Aug. 4 and 5 will explore the impact of wealth and income inequality on Black and Latinx workers at a time these populations are rapidly aging. The researchers are concerned with how their decisions about when to retire will impact their economic security.
Growing inequality “point[s] to greater risks of financial insecurity” for future Black and Latinx retirees, the researchers said.
Another paper will address a related topic: the differences, by race and ethnicity, in workers’ levels of knowledge about how Social Security benefits work. Understanding the ins and outs of the federal retirement benefit – and specifically the advantages of delaying retirement to get a larger monthly check – are critical to improving living standards in old age.
Other research will explore an area that hasn’t been well studied: government programs used by non-parental caregivers such as Black grandparents or members of Latinx three-generation households to support the children in their care. The researchers will examine minority and low-income workers’ and retirees’ use of SNAP food stamps, child care subsidies, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and various benefit programs overseen by Social Security.
COVID is another topic on the agenda. One study compares the financial impact of the pandemic on early retirement for different income groups with the patterns in the aftermath of the Great Recession more than a decade ago. Another study examines how mortality rates might change in the wake of the pandemic.
Research on many other topics will also be featured, including health insurance, mothers, and longevity. The agenda and information about registration are posted online. Registration is free. …Learn More
June 30, 2022
The Many Facets of Retirement Inequality
Retirement inequality is a thread running through several articles that have appeared here this year.
One blog that was particularly popular with our readers distinguishes retirees who have enough wealth to maintain the same spending levels throughout retirement from those who will, over time, have to cut back and reduce their standard of living.
The research behind the article – “Health and Wealth Drive Retirees’ Spending” – makes clear that wealth is just one component of a satisfying lifestyle. Even retirees who can afford to maintain their living standard may not be healthy enough to enjoy their money to the fullest. The retirees who have both – health and wealth – are best equipped to maintain their pre-retirement lifestyle.
Homeownership also marks a dividing line between the haves and have-nots. A home is one of retirees’ largest sources of wealth. Although most are hesitant to withdraw home equity, the ones who have equity and tap it to pay medical bills see large, positive health benefits, according to “Using Home Equity Improves Retirees’ Health.”
Pensions are another dividing line. “Retirees with Pensions Slower to Spend 401(k)s” shows the value of having guaranteed income from defined benefit pensions, which are all but extinct outside the public sector. …Learn More
April 5, 2022
One-Stop Shopping for Retiree Financial Aid
Fewer than half of low-income retirees who are eligible for SNAP food stamps or don’t automatically receive a medication subsidy as part of their Medicaid coverage are taking advantage of the programs.
These are two prominent examples of the head-spinning number of assistance programs for people over 60, from state property tax breaks and veterans benefits to transportation and healthcare assistance.
“Most older adults are not receiving all the benefits they’re eligible for, and it’s most likely that they’re not aware of what benefits are available to them,” said Erin Kee McGovern, director of the Center for Benefits Access at the non-profit National Council on Aging (NCOA).
And when retirees have heard about a specific program, they often assume – mistakenly – that they won’t qualify, she said. Other barriers are the daunting array of different state programs and lengthy application forms, which can be 15 or 20 pages.
To simplify the search, the NCOA created the Benefits Check Up, an online tool that does the initial screening to figure out which federal and state programs are available to individuals based on whether they fit the eligibility criteria.
The Benefits Check Up has been around since 2001, and more than 1 million individuals and social service agencies use it every year. To get the word out about this tool, NCOA provides grants to food banks, senior centers, and 100 local senior services agencies. It’s important to reach as many retirees as possible who need help.
Retirees enter their zip code and just a few other details and click on the categories that interest them, such as veterans’ benefits, health care subsidies, or tax cuts. The website spits out the programs that people might qualify for based on their income and where they live.
If a program looks interesting, the retiree fills out NCOA’s lengthier screening application for that specific program. Eventually, an application will still have to be filed with the relevant government agency.
March 29, 2022
Boomers Lament Disappearance of Pensions
More than one of this blog’s readers said a recent article about 401(k)s was hardly revelatory. But it sure generated a lot of comments.
Ed McGrath wrote this about “Retirees with Pensions Slower to Spend 401(k):” “Well thank you for this Caption Obvious.”
Perhaps the article struck a nerve because baby boomers are the generation who mostly lost out on pensions. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. workers born in the 1920s through the 1940s – many of them parents of boomers – had pensions. But a measly 6 percent of boomers from the tail end of the wave have them.
Millennials and members of Generation Z usually wouldn’t even consider pensions in their retirement plans. But boomers at one time might’ve hoped or even expected to enjoy a retirement similar to their pensioned parents.
“I am a single woman, a former nurse, and not one job offered me a pension,” said Jennifer Lee, who is 67. “I am relying on my savings and Social Security as well as the equity in my home.” Lee expressed chagrin that a 60-year-old cousin – a rare boomer with a pension – has already “mailed in his retirement papers.”
Several readers pointed out problems with a U.S. retirement system that increasingly relies on savings – leaving retirees to figure out how much to withdraw every year – as monthly pension checks have disappeared. Ken Pidock, quoting a financial journalist, said 401(k)s lack the reliability of pensions: “Forcing people of modest means to depend on the stock market for income to pay bills after they stop working is madness.”
Paul Brustowicz, a former insurance company employee in his late 70s, feels lucky to have the security that comes with a pension, along with his Social Security and some IRA funds he converted to an annuity. “The steady monthly income lets my wife rest easy at night,” he said.
But another reader, Brian Jarvis, has a different perspective on the generational pension divide. “Yes, my father had a traditional pension that I don’t have,” he said. But Jarvis and his wife built up an ample nest egg “that my parents couldn’t have dreamed of,” he said. “We’ll be in good shape for quite a while – the rest of our lives – even without our parents’ type of pensions.”
Unfortunately, not everyone is as prepared as Jarvis. About half of U.S. households aren’t saving enough to retire at the traditional age of 65, which puts them at risk of suffering a drop in their standard of living when they quit working and the paychecks stop. …Learn More