Posts Tagged "baby boomers"

COVID’s Impact on Claiming Social Security

The economy expanded smartly in the years before the Great Recession, just as it did before the COVID downturn. But the two recessions were markedly different, with opposite effects on when older workers signed up for Social Security, a new study finds.

In 2008, the stock market slid nearly 40 percent. Older Americans with retirement accounts, wanting to recoup their losses, were more likely to keep working or looking for a new job during the protracted downturn. But skyrocketing unemployment pushed many older workers in the other direction.

Social Security became an obvious fallback in the Great Recession for jobless workers who were at least 62 years old as the unemployment rate stagnated at around 10 percent for 1½ years. Not surprisingly, then, more people overall started claiming the retirement benefit early.

The COVID recession had the opposite effect on Social Security claiming. There was a slight decline in the likelihood that older workers started their benefits early – defined as prior to Social Security’s full retirement age – according to the Center for Retirement Research.

COVID played out differently mainly because the generosity of the federal pandemic assistance was unprecedented. First, in March 2020, Congress approved $600 weekly payments to supplement the standard unemployment benefit and extended them for 13 weeks. In December 2020, Congress renewed the weekly supplement at $300 and extended the benefits for 11 weeks. In March 2021, they were extended again through the end of September.

During COVID, the slight drop in claiming Social Security early was driven by older workers whose earnings are in the bottom two-thirds of all workers’ earnings. The unemployment support from the federal government made it easier for them to stay afloat without having to sign up for the retirement benefit.

The stock market also behaved much differently in the pandemic than in the 2008 financial crisis. During COVID, the market snapped back within months of its steep drop. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 18 percent in 2020 and soared another 28 percent in 2021. House prices also surged.

People with assets responded to their newfound wealth, becoming more likely to sign up for their Social Security benefits early relative to those without assets, the researchers found.

Still, this impact was more than offset by the decline in early claiming overall because more older Americans were using their generous unemployment benefits to keep paying the bills. …Learn More

COVID’s Small Impact on Future Mortality

The most COVID deaths were among Americans over age 60, who accounted for 300,000 of the 500,000 U.S. deaths from the disease in its first year.

A new study by the Center for Retirement Research finds, not surprisingly, that the oldest survivors of the early months of the pandemic were healthier than those who died from the virus. Taking this into account, the researchers estimated what mortality might look like in a “post-COVID” world in an analysis that was based on a big assumption – that COVID’s deaths were confined to a single year.

Factoring in the early impact of the virus, the researchers found that, despite COVID’s tragic toll in the over-60 population, their future mortality would decline only slightly because the number of COVID deaths was low relative to the group’s overall population.

Even a small drop in mortality might seem counterintuitive at a time the media were widely reporting that COVID was causing a dramatic increase in the annual death rate. But future mortality is different.

The researchers decided to test whether mortality would decline over the next decade because the older people who survived the pandemic were less likely to have the medical conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer that made others in their age group vulnerable. COVID’s survivors are a healthier population, they explained, with lower mortality rates than those who entered the pandemic. …Learn More

Yes, White Men’s Career Paths are Different

White men have the most success over the course of their lives in holding on to well-paying jobs that require high-level analytical abilities and interpersonal skills, a new study finds.

They have so much success that they often remain in this challenging non-routine work – astronomer, community college instructor, and analyst are examples – well into their 60s and even 70s. This isn’t the case for everyone else.

White women and also Asian-American men and women with college degrees also frequently start their careers in positions with demands that are similar to white men. But after they pass their prime working years, this type of work declines, in sharp contrast to white men’s career paths, the researchers found.

For example, the intensity of white women’s nonroutine cognitive work, as well as nonroutine interpersonal jobs like coach or education administrator, peaks around age 40 and then starts declining. At the same time, the intensity of the women’s routine cognitive tasks increase. This trend, which continues until they retire, might happen as older women are sidelined into less challenging office work.

The study, based on occupational data and a couple of long-running surveys of workers, accomplished two things. First, the researchers followed changes since 2004 in the nature of the overall job market. The intensity of the nonroutine tasks required to do a job, rated on a scale from low to high, has declined. But jobs requiring routine tasks have gained ground.

This doesn’t seem to jibe with well-known past research showing that people who do routine work are disproportionately being replaced by robots. But perhaps the prevalence of computers and artificial intelligence in the jobs that remain have increased routinization in many occupations. Reservation and ticket agents, telephone call center representatives, and medical transcriptionists are very high-intensity routine cognitive jobs.

The second part of the analysis showed that the evolution in job demands progresses very differently for various workers as they age and approach retirement.

The focus for Black and Hispanic men is on physical labor. The demands on all men doing manual jobs lessen over time as they lose physical strength. But the racial differences are clear. …Learn More

How Eager are Employers to Hire Boomers?

Older Americans’ share of the labor force has doubled since the early 1990s, and they constitute roughly one in four workers today.

But their dominance is mainly an artifact of the baby boomers’ demographic bulge moving through the labor force and says little about how employers view the growing ranks of aging workers.

Employers’ willingness to hire or retain older workers, especially when someone younger is available, is an important issue for a couple related reasons. Boomers are under increasing pressure to work as long as possible to improve their finances before retiring. It’s also easier for many to work well into their 60s since people are living longer and technological advances have reduced the physical requirements for some types of work.

But do employers want boomers on the payroll?

A study by Damir Cosic at the Congressional Budget Office and C. Eugene Steuerle at the Urban Institute finds some evidence that employers increasingly view them as pretty good substitutes for workers in their prime whose age – the mid-30s to mid-50s – and experience puts them at peak productivity. What distinguishes this research is its focus on understanding the demand for older workers, a departure from the many studies describing the changes in their labor supply.

The analysis turned on whether the growth in the older labor force has affected prime-aged workers’ wages. If, for example, their wages are increasing relative to the wages of workers over 55, this may indicate that employers are more willing to hire workers in their prime, because they have qualities the older workers lack.

If, however, the younger workers’ wages are declining relative to boomers’ wages as the growing supply of older workers puts some downward pressure on pay, employers may view the boomers as acceptable substitutes for their younger counterparts and are equally willing to employ them.

The researchers found that employers viewed older workers as increasingly attractive substitutes over the period 2000 through 2018. This trend was clearly evident in several specific industries, including utilities, real estate, information, government, finance, transportation, and wholesale. …Learn More

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

Caregiving’s Toll on Work Happens Quickly

Caregiving often wins out in the struggle between work and fulfilling one’s obligation to a family member or friend who needs help.

Researchers have documented the phenomenon of workers being forced to eventually leave their jobs so they can devote more time to the person in their care. But the impact on the work lives of the people who are new to their caregiving duties is often dramatic and happens very quickly, a new study finds.

Employment levels for workers who become caregivers declined by 6 percent within a year after they started, and most of the drop occurred because they left the labor force entirely, according to the analysis linking Census Bureau surveys on informal care with the Social Security Administration’s employment records for working-age adults.

The decline in employment may occur as early as four months after caregiving starts, based on a second analysis using only the Census data.

Caregivers who decide to stop working are also more likely to go on federal disability – either right away or years later. Many of the people receiving the benefits are older people who, despite their disabilities, had persisted in their jobs. Once they were needed by a family member, they may have decided to apply for disability to offset some of the loss of income from working.

Indeed, the largest employment declines were experienced by people over age 62, who often have an elderly parent or spouse in need of care – and sometimes both. For many of them, leaving a job coincided with claiming their Social Security benefits in an indication that caregiving is often pushing them to retire. Workers between 45 and 61 saw a smaller decline in employment after becoming caregivers.

Men’s and women’s paths from worker to caregiver are different, however. Women report small declines in their employment levels, and they return to the labor force relatively quickly. The impact on men is more dramatic and long-lasting. …Learn More

UI Benefits Can Get Caregivers Back to Work

Elderly coupleWhen older workers are laid off, the timing of the career disruption could not be worse – when they should keep working and saving for retirement. Their situation is even more precarious if a parent or spouse is in need of care.

A new study shows that people who become unemployed mid-to-late career are more vulnerable to being pulled into the demands of caregiving, which can derail their efforts to find another job.

Intensive caregiving spells usually kick in about four months after a job loss and can continue for up to 12 months – and possibly longer – according to the research, which was based on U.S. Census surveys of the unemployed prior to the pandemic.

“Family caregiving needs have the potential to turn short-term employment shocks into longer-run decreases in labor force participation, impacting the economic security” of future retirees, concluded Yulya Truskinovsky at Wayne State University.

But she also uncovered another factor in workers’ calculations: the generosity of unemployment benefits, which vary dramatically from state to state. The federal and state governments share the cost of the benefits, but states set the minimum and maximum benefit levels. During the pandemic, for example, the weekly maximum in Massachusetts was 3 1/2 times more than Mississippi’s, far exceeding the difference in the two states’ cost of living.

More generous unemployment benefits could cut one of two ways. They might give the worker enough income to support being a caregiver rather than returning to the labor force right away. The downside of taking so much time off is that it could be harder to eventually find a new job.

But the researcher finds that the opposite occurs: more generous benefits sharply reduce the likelihood that someone takes on caregiving duties after losing a job. Benefits that replace more of a worker’s earnings may make it easier to hire a professional caregiver or continue paying an existing one so the worker can focus on a job search. …Learn More