Posts Tagged "retired"
February 22, 2022
Minority Retirees: More Healthcare Access
The pandemic has dramatized the grim consequences of Black and Latino Americans having less access to healthcare than whites: disproportionately high death rates from COVID-19.
But there has been some progress toward racial equity in an unlikely place: Medicare Advantage plans sold by insurance companies. Enrollment in the plans has increased unabated for years, and minority enrollment more than doubled between 2013 and 2019.
During that time, Advantage plans increased from about a third of the various Medicare options purchased by Black, Latino, Asian and other minority retirees to nearly half, according to the non-profit Better Medicare Alliance.
Dr. Elena Rios, president of the National Hispanic Medical Association, and Martin Hamlette, executive director of the National Medical Association representing Black physicians, said Advantage plans provide retirees with access to preventive services like mammograms and cholesterol checks that keep them healthy.
Advantage plans are “a needed tool in the work of building a more just health care system,” they wrote in a recent Health Affairs article.
The appeal is upfront affordability. The monthly premiums are significantly lower than Medigap premiums, and many Advantage plans charge no premium. They frequently include prescription drug coverage, eliminating the need to pay for a separate Part D drug plan.
The reason Advantage plans are especially popular with minorities is that they tend to have lower incomes than whites and less room in their monthly budgets for medical care. Three out of four minority retirees in Advantage plans have incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, compared with half of the whites in the plans.
Like all insurance, however, Advantage policies are a mixed bag. Medicare beneficiaries in poor health may face higher costs down the road if they experience a major medical crisis. In one study, the sickest retirees with Advantage plans had more risk of inordinately large annual out-of-pocket expenses for copayments and deductibles than retirees with Medigap plans. …Learn More
February 15, 2022
Documentary: Navigating a 401k World
Early in this new documentary, the director’s message seems to be that retirement finances are messy, elusive, and too complicated for mere mortals to understand. He’s right on all counts.
Filmmaker Doug Orchard reminds us in “The Baby Boomer Dilemma: An Exposé on America’s Retirement Experiment” that there are no easy solutions for Social Security, which economists predict will deplete its trust fund reserves around 2034. Closing the shortfall will probably require some combination of benefit cuts and revenue increases.
Social Security is “one of the most important problems we face as a nation,” The Wharton School’s Olivia Mitchell says in the documentary.
Our other primary program – a 401(k)-style retirement savings plan – seems great when the stock market is going up, as it has until recently. Viewers are reminded of the 2008 stock market crash, which panicked older workers who realized they might not have time to make up their losses before retiring. The stock market rises over long periods of time, increasing the money in retirement accounts, but it entails risks that can be unnerving for workers and force them into making bad decisions about their investments.
Finally, the filmmaker presents a real-world example – in Florida – of the difficult decisions workers grapple with in a U.S. retirement system that has largely transitioned from defined benefit pensions, which provide regular monthly income, to 401(k) and other defined contribution plans, which accumulate a pot of savings that retirees have to figure out how to manage.
“Baby boomers are sort of the guinea pig, and we’ve said, ‘Okay you figure it out guys,’ ” says David Babbel at Wharton. …Learn More
February 10, 2022
Workers: Social Security Info is Eye-Opening
Most workers have never created an online my SocialSecurity account to get an estimate of their future retirement benefits. The people who do use this feature tend to be older or are retired and already receiving their benefits.
If only more younger adults would log on.
One 31-year-old worker, after looking up his personal estimate for the first time, learned that his future benefit is “not quite nearly enough to survive on.” The estimate – retrieved during an interview with researchers for a new study – prompted him to think about a retirement plan now. A 43-year-old woman realized her spouse’s decision about when to retire would affect her spousal benefit from Social Security. “I had no idea,” she said, calling the information “a reality check.”
And it’s a good thing one 60-year-old logged on to my Social Security. He didn’t know he qualified for retirement benefits, because the last time he’d checked, he had not built up the earnings record – 40 quarters of work – the program requires. “I will look into it further and find out exactly what is going on,” he said.
These and other revelations came from interviews with 24 workers by University of Southern California researchers Lila Rabinovich and Francisco Perez-Arce. They combined these insights with a much larger, online survey to analyze how Americans use the valuable benefit estimates available to them.
It’s important to understand why my Social Security isn’t being used more, especially since first-time users described the online feature as easy to use and eye-opening. Going online didn’t seem to be an issue either, because the people in the survey already search for other information that way.
One of the primary reasons the workers hadn’t looked up their personal accounts, the researchers concluded, was a lack of awareness the feature existed. But this isn’t at all surprising for younger workers, who are more concerned about developing their careers than about retiring. …Learn More
January 20, 2022
Wandering into Retirement Worked for Him
Howard Gantman didn’t exactly have a plan for retirement. Rather, he wandered into it during the early months of COVID chaos.
Nevertheless, retirement is going better than he’d expected. Gantman, who read comic books and science fiction voraciously as a child, has rediscovered his passion. He joined a writing group on Zoom and is working on a science fiction novel of his own. (And no, he’s not disclosing the plot yet.)
“I’m happier doing this than I would’ve been if I’d continued to work. I really was ready for a change,” the Washington, D.C., resident said in a recent interview. “Aside from a gruesome virus that keeps on whacking us on the head, I feel more in control of my life.”
Retirement experts often warn baby boomers that planning for lifestyle changes before retiring is just as important as making certain one’s finances are in order. That’s the ideal. But not everyone who’s making the transition has a well-developed plan or takes a straight route to where they wind up.
Gantman, a former journalist and government and communications professional, had anticipated working until he was about 72. In March 2019, at age 67, he left his job at the Motion Picture Association during a staffing transition and started focusing on consulting and volunteer work while searching for a new job. In December, he had to go into the hospital for surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm and replace an aortic valve.
After the surgery, while he was recovering and doing some light consulting, COVID hit and his employment opportunities dried up.
He decided to get back into creative writing, something he had only dabbled in as a young, workaholic journalist and then government official. At first, he blogged about aging and thought about writing a memoir centered on his late-life transition. But that topic no longer seemed to strike the right tone with so many lives suddenly in turmoil around COVID.
That’s when his love of science fiction and fantasy pulled him back in. “I decided that’s it. That’s what I want to do,” he said about writing a novel. …Learn More
January 4, 2022
Readers’ Favorite Retirement Blogs in 2021
For the baby boomers who are looking down the road to retirement, generalities will no longer suffice. They are diving into the nitty gritty.
Their keen interest in retirement issues, based on reader traffic last year, range from why the adjustments to Social Security’s monthly benefits are outdated to how it’s still possible for boomers, even at this late hour, to rescue their retirement.
First, and most important, there is hope for the unprepared. In “No-benefit Jobs Better than Retiring Early,” readers who want to retire but can’t afford it learned that they can dramatically improve their finances by finding a new job – ideally a less stressful or physically demanding one. Even if the job doesn’t have employee benefits, working longer will increase their Social Security benefits and allow them to save a little more.
The most popular article tackled a complex issue: “Social Security: Time for an Update?” The article explained the program’s actuarial adjustments, which are based on the age someone signs up for their benefits and factors into how much they’ll get. The adjustments, set decades ago, are no longer accurate, due to both increasing life spans that affect how much retirees receive from the program over their lifetimes and persistently low interest rates.
If these factors were taken into account, the researchers estimate that the average person who starts Social Security at age 62 would get more in their monthly checks, and the average person who holds out until 70 would get less.
However, not everyone is average. High-income workers tend to live longer and retire – and claim Social Security – later, while low-income workers have shorter lifespans and disproportionately start Social Security at 62. The researchers conclude that the inequities “are not a problem that can be solved by tinkering with the actuarial adjustment.” A true fix would “would require a reassessment of the benefit structure.”
A major issue facing boomers in their late 50s and early 60s is that households with 401(k)s typically have saved only about $144,000 for retirement in their 401(k)s and IRAs. The reasons for insufficient savings – explained in “Here’s Why People Don’t Save Enough” – boil down to things that are largely beyond their control, including disruptions in their employment, a lack of access to employer retirement plans, lower earnings than they’d hoped for, bad investments, unanticipated premature retirements, and health problems.
However, workers can do something to gauge how they’re doing: make sure they know how much they’ll get from Social Security. …Learn More
December 21, 2021
COVID Hasn’t Pushed Boomers into Retiring
Three months into the pandemic, a few million older workers had been laid off or quit. But what happened next?
The rapid drop in employment due to COVID gave the Center for Retirement Research an unusual opportunity to study the labor force decisions of baby boomers, who are within striking distance of retirement age but may or may not be ready to take the leap.
Traditionally, older workers who left a job tended to retire. But there was little indication that the people who stopped working during the pandemic saw retirement as their best fallback option.
This conclusion by the researchers is consistent with the pre-COVID trend of boomers working longer to put themselves in a better financial position when they eventually do retire. In fact, many older workers have returned to the labor force as the economy has rebounded and vaccines have become widely available.
But in April 2020, job departures spiked before settling back down at a new, much higher level. The annual pace of departures increased from 15 percent of workers 55 and over in 2019, prior to COVID, to 23 percent in 2020.
The researchers found a surprise when they looked at who stopped working. Although older people are vulnerable to becoming seriously ill from COVID, age wasn’t a big factor in their decisions. Boomers in their 60s were no more likely to leave their jobs than people in their mid- to late-50s, according to the analysis of monthly Census Bureau surveys.
The groups most likely to leave the labor force were women, Asian-Americans, and workers who either don’t have a college degree or don’t have a job that easily lends itself to working remotely.
But among all of the age 55-plus workers in the study, the share reporting that they had retired barely increased, from an average of 12 percent prior to COVID to 13 percent last year.
The only people who left their jobs and retired in significant numbers during the pandemic were over 70. This finding reinforced what the researchers found in data from the U.S. Social Security Administration: the pandemic didn’t have a major impact on retirement because the share of workers between 62 and 70 who signed up for Social Security was relatively flat between April 2019 and June 2021. …Learn More
December 9, 2021
Men Make Bigger Changes After Retiring
Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus. That continues to hold true in retirement.
A new study that examines two aspects of this major life change – personal and financial relationships – finds that men and women use their newfound freedom in different ways.
The change in men’s social lives after they retire is more dramatic because they greatly expand their network of friends, adult children, and extended family, and they have more conversations with them about personal matters.
Men “become more dependent on family,” concludes research by two University of Wisconsin sociologists.
Retirement doesn’t mark the same type of social shift for women, however. They already had a larger network and always took more responsibility for maintaining relationships, and not much changes in retirement – with one exception. Women increase the number of hours spent taking care of their grandchildren.
The differences are consistent across much of the western world, according to this study, which was based on surveys in the United States and Europe – from Sweden to Spain to Estonia. Although married and single people participated in the survey, the heart of the analysis was asking each individual this question:
“Looking back over the last 12 months, who are the people with whom you most often discussed things that are important to you?” Each individual listed up to five people in their networks, the nature of the relationships, and how often they are in contact.
In addition to branching out socially, retired men are more likely to give money to offspring or other family members. In married couples, this is often jointly decided by husband and wife. But the actual money transfers picked up only after the men – and not the women – retired and had more energy to devote to family. …Learn More