Posts Tagged "children"
September 27, 2022
Good News on Health Insurance in Pandemic
To paraphrase a U.S. senator in 1977, the moral test of government is how it treats the sick, the poor, and its children. That rings especially true during an historic public health emergency like COVID.
Congress came through with financial relief to blunt the pandemic’s impact, and the money that flowed through the economy provided more Americans with health insurance, while also reducing poverty.
Several newly released U.S. Census reports “show how much vigorous policies can do to prevent poverty and preserve access to health care,” the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concluded.
The Uninsured. During the pandemic, the share of all adults lacking health insurance declined from 9.2% in 2019 to 8.6% in 2021, reversing the trend of a rising uninsured rate in prior years. The rate dropped as Congress improved access and affordability during COVID by passing large premium reductions for policies purchased on the federal and state exchanges and by requiring states that receive Medicaid funds to expand their coverage of poor and low-income workers during the pandemic.
Congress has extended the premium reductions through 2025, but the federal enhancements to Medicaid are set to expire, leaving states to determine the extent to which they will cover their low-income workers in the future.
The Poor. The COVID aid passed by Congress lifted nearly 14 million Americans out of poverty over the past two years, according to Census. This statistic aligns with earlier research showing the financial assistance was particularly effective in helping low-income workers and people who were struggling financially prior to the pandemic. …Learn More
April 14, 2022
Her Home Purchase Builds Children’s Wealth
There is joy in owning one’s first home. But homeownership has a deeper meaning for Robin Valentine.
Unlike her late mother, who was unable to leave any money to her children, Valentine will one day pass on the house that she purchased last September to her three children.
“I told my children, ‘If anything happens to me, and you don’t want to stay here, that’s fine. Take the money [from selling the house] and put it towards your home,’ ” she said. “It’s more than just me buying this house and living in it. It’s for me to leave a legacy.”
Valentine, who is 52, is accomplishing something that historically has proved difficult for African-Americans like herself: building intergenerational wealth.
For most workers, a house is their largest source of wealth. But the homeownership rate in the Black community is dramatically lower than for whites for reasons ranging from mortgage discrimination to insufficient income. When Black people do own houses, their properties hold significantly less wealth. The typical Black homeowner had $4,400 in home equity in 2020, compared with $67,800 for white homeowners.
With sheer determination, Valentine, an administrative assistant in academic services at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, overcame numerous obstacles to buying a house.
She attended college but had to drop out because she couldn’t afford it. It took about eight years to pay off $20,000 in student loans and credit card bills after a divorce from an abusive marriage. For seven years after that, she saved for a down payment by resisting any purchase that wasn’t essential. Once a year, she would ask the bank for a mortgage preapproval to see if she could afford a house yet.
“I just kept saving every little penny I could save,” she said.
Last July, Valentine paid $275,480 for a three-story townhouse in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. Her mortgage payment is $1,635 – not much more than she paid to rent a subsidized apartment under the federal Section 8 program.
She got big assists from two government programs and a non-profit. One program is overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Under HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS), the non-profit Compass Working Capital partners with local housing authorities to help tenants like Valentine get a foothold in the housing market. …Learn More
November 11, 2021
Parent PLUS Debt Relief: the Good and Bad
Some 3.6 million parents are paying off more than $100 billion in debt used to fund their children’s college education. For many parents, the federal Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) was the only way they could afford college, but many are now struggling to make the monthly payments.
In a Harris poll in July, nearly one in three said they regret the decision to borrow. If these parents need relief, they have two basic options: enter into the government’s repayment plan for PLUS loans or refinance their federal student loans through a private lender such as a bank. Both options have significant downsides.
Anna Helhoski, a student loan expert with the financial website, NerdWallet, explained the good and bad in the federal government’s income-contingent repayment program for parents overburdened by college debt.
Before we get into the details of this option, how big a problem is this?
We do know that parent PLUS borrowers are one of the fastest growing groups of people with student loans. With any student loan, you borrow to afford the degree so you can earn the money to repay the loan. But the conflict with parent PLUS loans is that you get the debt, but you don’t reap the higher earnings that come with a new degree. PLUS loans were originally meant to provide liquid funds for families with higher assets. But when it was opened up to more borrowers in 1992, it became a lot easier to take on more debt, and college costs were going up, so it became more of a necessity to access it.
Parents can easily rack up six-figure debt. The only requirement is that they don’t have adverse credit histories. PLUS loans are really easy to get and difficult to pay back. Repayment for parents – it’s probably the No. 1 question I get from anyone around repaying student loans.
Wouldn’t this be a particular concern for parents close to retirement age?
We know that is happening. Parents are putting off retirement because they can’t simply afford to retire because they have this debt looming.
Parents can get help from the federal government in the form of an income-contingent repayment plan (ICR). Generally, how does it work?
The standard repayment plan for new student loans is 10 years. But if parents are struggling to pay that debt, they have only one option: income-contingent payments over 25 years. The payments are set at 20 percent of their adjusted gross income on their tax filings, also known as discretionary income. And they can only get that if they first consolidate and then apply for the ICR program.
It’s not means-tested, so any parent PLUS borrower can qualify for ICR, but they are required to combine all of their PLUS loans first into a federal consolidation loan. If you don’t want to consolidate, you can’t access ICR.
What are the downsides of consolidation?
Your payments may be lower when you consolidate but you’re going to be paying the loans off over a longer period of time, which means you’ll pay more in interest over time. If you consolidate but don’t go into the ICR program, your term will be between 10 and 30 years – the larger the loan balance, the longer the term. The other downside of consolidation is that any outstanding interest on your existing loan balance will be added to the principal of your consolidation loan. You’ll be paying interest on your interest. If you consolidate and then enter the ICR repayment plan — the only option if you want to pin your payments to how much you can afford based on your income — your new term length will always be 25 years.
Given the downsides of ICR plans, what is the profile of the parents who could benefit? …Learn More
October 21, 2021
The Problem with Low-Income Tax Credits
The federal tax code offers a nifty tax credit to low-income workers who save for retirement. If only it reached more people.
The Saver’s Credit offers what appears on its face to be a strong incentive: the IRS will return up to 50 percent of the amount low-income workers and married couples put into a retirement plan.
But Barbara Wollan, an 18-year volunteer in Iowa with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA, which provides free tax preparation to low-income workers, said her clients often don’t qualify. The reason: the tax credit is not what the IRS calls “fully refundable.”
For example, a single person earning $19,750 or less is eligible for a tax credit equal to 50 percent of the amount saved – the maximum retirement plan contribution eligible for the credit is $2,000. The credits are either 10 percent or 20 percent for single workers earning between $19,751 and $33,000. (The income limits are higher for households.)
The catch is that the credit is subtracted from the taxes owed, and low-income people usually pay little or no taxes to the IRS after they take the standard deduction given to all taxpayers. If they don’t owe taxes, they don’t get the credit.
“To dream big about helping low-income people save for retirement, we would make it a refundable credit,” said Wollan, an educator with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, which distributes research information in her state on topics like finance and agriculture.
Congress is considering providing a refundable credit of up to $500 to single and married savers even if they don’t owe anything at tax time. But lawmakers often get into a political disagreement about whether people who don’t pay taxes should get money back from the IRS.
Wollan feels her low-income clients should be rewarded for making what is, for them, a Herculean effort to save. “When I see that they have contributed to a 401(k) or other retirement account, I just want to jump up and down and cheer and pat them on the back,” she said. But “because their income is so low, they don’t get to take advantage of these credits, and that is so sad.” …Learn More
April 20, 2021
How Many Kids Will 30-Somethings Have?
U.S. fertility is already at record lows, and women in their 30s have had only 1.3 children on average – well short of their expectations for more than two children.
But they still have time left on their biological clock. So, will they catch up?
Several factors are working specifically against the college graduates in this cohort. Religiously observant people usually have more children, and the decline in religious affiliation is reducing their fertility. Their fertility is also being hurt by the falling marriage rate, which leaves fewer couples ready to raise a family. In addition, the women’s careers often compete with having children.
In a new study, Anqi Chen and Nilufer Gok at the Center for Retirement Research predicted that the final fertility rate for Millennials in their 30s – the rate at the end of their childbearing years – will average 1.96 children.
If this prediction proves accurate, it would get them somewhat closer to what they’d expected and close to the number of children required to replace two parents.
Predicting the final fertility rate for the Millennial women born in the early 1980s required going back in time to analyze the established patterns of a generation that is now past its childbearing years: women born in the second half of the baby boom wave. The researchers applied what they learned about these late boomers and, after adjusting for recent trends, estimated final fertility for today’s 30-somethings.
The 1.96 fertility rate sounds encouraging, but that number applies only to these Millennials. The longer-term prospects suggest fertility may be lower in the future. …Learn More
March 16, 2021
Video: Grandparents as Substitute Parents
In 2015, the journal Pediatrics estimated some 3 million children were living with grandparents – and the number is certainly higher today. Grandparents find themselves in a caregiving role in the aftermath of parents’ myriad personal traumas, including opioid addiction, suicide, incarceration, and now COVID-19.
In this excellent PBS NewsHour video, “Grandfamilies,” grandparents tell journalist Stephanie Sy about the financial and emotional toll of caring for children. Despite the challenges, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
But the financial strain is real. Some of the people Sy interviewed said their childcare duties have forced them to close businesses, and others are earning less due to the pandemic.
Lisa Banks stretches herself thin helping each of her three grandchildren with their remote learning. The new members of her household have also increased the electricity and food bills – her two grandsons are teenagers. “It’s like, I’m hungry, I’m hungry, I’m hungry. You hear it all day,” said Banks, who gets food assistance from a non-profit on Sundays.
COVID-19 adds another layer of worries. Kim Elia, who is standing in for her 11-year-old granddaughter’s parents, is recovering from the disease. “I was truly afraid to die because of what would happen to Brooklyn,” she said.
Raising children is a big job for young adults. A second go-around late in life seems even harder. …Learn More
January 10, 2019
A Social Security Reform for Mom
Created in the 1930s, Social Security’s spousal benefit – it’s half of a retired husband’s benefit – was the way to compensate housewives for the work of raising children.
The world has changed, but Social Security hasn’t been modified to reflect the rise of the full-time, working mother.
Today, married women frequently have earned enough to collect Social Security based on their own employment histories, rather than a spousal benefit. The problem comes when their earnings are reduced – and ultimately their Social Security benefits – because they disrupted their career paths and sacrificed pay raises to care for their children.
Single motherhood has also become very common, which means that a wide swath of women have no access to spousal and survivor benefits at all. Due to a higher divorce rate, one in four first marriages don’t last the full 10 years that Social Security requires to qualify for these benefits.
The erosion of spousal benefits points to a future in which “large numbers of women are going to move through retirement with more disadvantages” than previous generations, concludes a recent report by the Center for Retirement Research.
This problem could be addressed if Social Security gave credit to parents for caregiving. Caregiver credits are already pervasive in Europe, including Austria, Germany, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, and they take various forms.
In this country, policy experts have proposed two different approaches to help parents with children under age six by increasing the earnings that dictate the size of their benefit checks. …Learn More