Posts Tagged "baby boomer"
February 18, 2021
Big Picture Helps with Retirement Finances
The prospect of retiring opens a Pandora’s box of questions. But one big question dominates all the others: How will I manage my finances when I retire?
This is a vexing problem, and baby boomers could use some help thinking it through. To ease the process, a team at UCLA and Cornell University led by David Zimmerman, a UCLA doctoral student, created an online decision tool. In an experiment, they found that the tool might help future retirees understand how to smooth out their income over many years and make their savings last.
The results are preliminary, and the researchers are refining their analysis. But for the initial experiment, they recruited 400 people, ages 40 through 63. The participants were instructed to use the tool to make three big retirement decisions: starting Social Security, choosing a 401(k)-withdrawal strategy, and deciding whether to purchase an annuity. Their decisions would be on behalf of a 60-year-old who is single and plans to retire in two years. He earns $55,000 and has $250,000 in savings to work with.
The participants were split into two comparison groups. One group received immediate feedback on the impact of each separate decision. For example, when the participants picked a Social Security starting age for the hypothetical person, a chart showed a horizontal line tracking the fixed annual benefit locked in by that decision.
When they moved on to another page and selected a plan for 401(k) withdrawals, a chart showed the age when the savings would probably run out. The final decision was whether to buy a deferred annuity with some portion, or all, of the 401(k) assets. The chart on this page displayed the fixed income the annuity would generate every year for as long as the person lives.
The participants were encouraged to change their decisions as much as they liked to see how a change affected that particular source of income. But the researchers suspected that seeing each decision in isolation doesn’t help to clarify how various decisions work together to determine total retirement income over time.
So, the second group got to see the big picture. The chart in this case displayed the impact of any single decision on the annual income from all sources. …Learn More
February 9, 2021
Readers See Pros, Cons to Paid-off Mortgage
Baby boomers love to discuss this age-old question: Should I pay off the mortgage before retiring?
Our blog readers fell into two camps in their comments on a recent article.
Some made an emotional argument – that a mortgage-free retirement makes them feel secure. The other camp argued that paying off the mortgage does not make financial sense.
The article, “Boomers Repairing their Mortgage Finances,” described research showing that boomers have sharply cut what they owe on their mortgages by paying extra in the years since the housing market bust. People naturally pay more of this debt as they age. But the boomers’ rapid payoffs partly explain why 40 percent to 50 percent of Americans in their 60s no longer have a mortgage, wiping out what is often a retiree’s largest single expense.
Despite the recent payoffs, boomers still trail their parents. Roughly 80 percent of the homeowners born in the 1930s had paid off their home loans by the same age, according to Jason Fichtner’s analysis for the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin.
As for whether to pay off the mortgage, many boomers don’t have that luxury. After the wave of foreclosures a decade ago, Fichtner found, the homeownership rate for 60-something boomers quickly slid more than 10 percentage points, to around 65 percent. The U.S. homeownership rate has increased in recent years but is still below the pre-recession peak.
The financial argument against paying off the mortgage was made in a blog comment by Tony Webb, a research economist at The New School. “At current interest rates and anticipated inflation rates, mortgage borrowing is almost free,” he wrote.
“All but the most risk-averse should load up on money while it’s on sale,” he said. [Full disclosure: Webb used to work at the Center for Retirement Research, which sponsors this blog.]
Another reader, Beth, said paying off the mortgage “is one cornerstone of a worry-free retirement.” However, she knows “several financially savvy people who for various valid reasons have not paid off their homes.” …Learn More
January 14, 2021
Boomers Repairing their Mortgage Finances
The housing market collapse more than a decade ago inflicted a lot of financial damage on baby boomers nearing retirement. But a new study finds that some have been trying to make up for lost time by rapidly reducing their mortgage debt.
Since the Great Recession, the boomers who were born in the 1950s – they are now in their 60s – have paid down more than 40 percent of their remaining mortgages and home equity loans, on average – a much faster pace than their parents did at that age.
Not all the damage from the Great Recession can be repaired, however, because many people lost their homes in the wave of foreclosures. For example, the homeownership rate for the boomers born in the early 1950s quickly dropped slightly more than 10 percentage points after the housing crisis, to 67 percent, where it remained until 2016, the last year of data in the study.
Since then, the U.S. homeownership rate has increased but is still below the pre-recession peak.
The impact of the housing crisis was far less dramatic for Americans born in the early 1930s. Their homeownership rate dipped 2 percentage points right after the crisis, to a relatively high 76 percent, according to Jason Fichtner of Johns Hopkins University.
The decline in boomers’ homeownership leaves fewer of them with housing wealth to fall back on when they retire.
They have also fallen behind in fully paying off their mortgages, which would eliminate their monthly payments and make the house a low-cost place to live. Just half of the boomers born in the early 1950s who held onto their homes during the Great Recession own them outright – two-thirds of the people born in the early 1930s had paid off their mortgages by that age. …Learn More
November 19, 2020
Blue-Collar Workers Often Retire Early
Construction and factory workers, truck drivers, and cleaning crews don’t always have the flexibility to work a few extra years to beef up their monthly Social Security checks.
Several blog readers stressed this point in their comments on a recent blog article, “Changing Social Security: Who’s Affected.”
Lorraine Porto retired from a desk job, but her family is filled with craftsmen, carpenters, electricians, farmers, and truckers who worked “until they were worn out.”
People in white-collar jobs don’t always appreciate “just how tough and demanding it is” to climb poles every day, descend into manholes, build skyscrapers, or bring in the hay in 90-degree heat and sub-zero temperatures, Porto said.
Her comment was in response to the article, which described a study about a hypothetical increase in Social Security’s retirement ages. It found that if Congress were to increase the earliest possible age for starting Social Security from 62 currently to 64, blue-collar workers would have much more of an adjustment to make.
Blue-collar workers, Kenneth Wegner wrote, “are less physically able to remain in their jobs.”
Policymakers are well aware of this concern, and a proposal to increase the early retirement age isn’t currently on the table. Yet many people are deciding to postpone retirement on their own. The general trend in recent decades is for all workers – even some people in physically demanding jobs – to delay when they collect Social Security.
That wasn’t possible for Mark Roberts. The former electrician, who worked on construction sites in Austin, Texas, said he had to go on disability due to an old foot injury that got worse over time. Now 67, he said he wasn’t able to work long enough or earn enough to save for retirement and ekes out an existence on his Social Security checks.
“I have to survive for a month on what I used to make every week,” he said.
White-collar workers who lose their jobs can also find themselves in a similar predicament. …Learn More
November 3, 2020
Men’s Health and Disability Applications
It’s often true that men in their 50s who’ve done physically demanding jobs for decades develop debilitating conditions. But they’re not old enough to retire and collect Social Security.
Particularly during economic downturns, many of these workers have turned to a fallback option: federal disability benefits.
While economic conditions and policy changes are primarily responsible for the year-to-year changes in applications for disability, there is growing evidence of worsening health and functioning among men in their 50s and 60s. A new study has found that these trends have also increased the number of older workers who may qualify for disability benefits.
The researchers first confirmed past studies showing that this population’s health has gotten worse since the 1990s. More of them are suffering from various debilitating conditions, including asthma, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.
The older workers also increasingly reported having trouble carrying out some basic activities required to do their jobs, such as reaching overhead, kneeling, and standing for two hours. Evidence of the older workers’ deteriorating condition over time was confirmed in separate analyses of two different surveys: the Health and Retirement Study and the National Health Interview Survey.
The heart of the study was to measure the potential impact of declining health and work capacity on the Social Security disability program.
The analysis finds that the deterioration in men’s health is likely to have increased the share of these men who could qualify for disability benefits by more than 15 percent between the mid-1990s and mid-2010s. The rise in potential demand for benefits was unrelated to the aging of the baby boom population, which the researchers accounted for.
Economic downturns like the Great Recession increase disability applications and awards. But those increases are usually temporary. …Learn More
October 27, 2020
Retirement System Urgently Needs Fixing
The state of our retirement preparedness is captured in this fact: about half of U.S. private sector workers at any given time are not enrolled in an employer retirement plan.
To be clear, they are not currently enrolled. Some of them have participated in a plan in the past or will in the future. But this inconsistency is the problem, largely because so many employers still don’t offer 401(k) savings plans to their employees.
The financial toll of not saving consistently is modest retirement account balances. Yet saving has become increasingly urgent as traditional pensions have virtually disappeared from the private sector and Social Security is replacing less of workers’ incomes over time.
In 2019 – after several years of economic growth and a surging stock market – the typical working household, ages 55 to 64, that saves in a 401(k) had only $144,000 in its 401(k)s and IRAs combined, the Center for Retirement Research found in an analysis of the Federal Reserve’s 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances.
That’s just $9,000 more than they had in the 2016 survey, and $144,000 won’t go very far.
A $144,000 account would yield $570 per month for retirement if a couple purchases an annuity that pays a guaranteed income for the rest of their lives. For most retirees, the annuity payments – totaling just under $7,000 per year – would be their only source of income outside of Social Security.
There are also enormous differences between high- and low-income households’ savings, which reflect the nation’s economic disparities and uneven employer coverage. The highest-income older households in the study had $805,500 in their combined 401(k) and IRA accounts, compared with just $32,200 for low-income households. …Learn More
October 15, 2020
Older and Self-Employed – a Diverse Lot
Self-employed workers who are 50 and older fall into a hierarchy of sorts, a new study finds.
The largest group is the 75 percent who work independently in jobs like freelancer and gig worker. Their average earnings are low – $18,000 a year – and they are more likely to be women or Hispanics.
The other 25 percent of the self-employed older workers are primarily white men and are evenly divided between business owners and managers who work on a contract basis. These individuals tend to be doctors, lawyers, or executives in industries ranging from finance and construction to retail.
To get a better handle on who is choosing self-employment and why, University of Michigan researcher Joelle Abramowitz analyzed 2016 survey data from the Health and Retirement Study. These data included not only older workers’ employment status but also specific information about their employers, industries, and occupations.
The self-employed account for roughly one out of five older workers, but the arrangement is especially popular among boomers over 65 – a third of the workers in this age group are self-employed.
Abramowitz’s research, funded by the U.S. Social Security Administration, finds a lot of diversity in the jobs the self-employed do and in their perceptions of work.
The low-paid independent workers dominate jobs like caregiver, cleaner, farmer, artist, and beauty industry worker. Many view themselves as “retired” and say they would rather not work but apparently need to supplement their retirement income.
In contrast, the owners and managers are far less likely to see themselves as officially retired. Compared with the independent workers, they earn considerably more and are wealthier. The net value of their financial, housing and other wealth exceeds $1 million on average.
Their attitudes are different too. …Learn More