February 23, 2012
For Many Elderly, Little Left as Life Ends
About half of the elderly living alone and one-third of elderly couples have less than $10,000 left in their savings and investment accounts just before they leave this world.
These grim statistics may be a more accurate gauge of retirement survival than the balances Americans have accumulated as they enter retirement, a pursuit that pre-retirees and the financial-services industry tend to focus on.
To determine where retirees wind up financially, economists James Poterba at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Steven Venti at Dartmouth College, and David Wise at Harvard University crunched a mass of data. Tracking a nationally representative sample of middle-aged and older Americans, they tabulated the financial assets held by elderly couples and the elderly living alone as they approached retirement, retired and aged, and when they were last observed in the sample.
“What we take away from this is that a significant number of households have a very small cushion if they encounter any kind of financial need,” Poterba said in a telephone interview last week, referring to a new working paper, “Were They Prepared for Retirement? Financial Status at Advanced Ages in the HRS and AHEAD Cohorts.”
The following is a small slice of what the researchers found in the last years before the elderly died…Learn More
February 16, 2012
Impulse Saving May Be ‘New’ New Thing
You’ve heard of impulse purchases. But how about impulse saving?
It’s purely an idea at this stage, and it may not work. But a New York City check-cashing firm plans to start a program that will allow customers to throw $20, $10, even $1 into savings – on impulse – when they’re cashing a check or flush with cash.
“I know my customers,” said Joseph Coleman, president of RiteCheck Cashing Inc., which has 12 stores open 24/7 in Harlem and the Bronx. “If they could put $5 away or $20 away for a television they wanted, to buy a car, or for Christmas, they would do it.”
Key to making the program work is simplicity, operating on the theory that barriers and red tape thwart savings deposit; if a customer wants to open a savings account, RiteCheck will print an application that’s already filled out and needs only a signature. RiteCheck teamed up with long-time business partner Bethex Federal Credit Union to open and manage the accounts.
“People have intensions to save” but “get derailed by the lack of a clear, easy path to start saving,” said Innovations for Poverty Action’s (IPA) Jonathan Zinman, a Dartmouth College economist who worked with Coleman to create the product. The non-profit IPA granted $15,000 this month to set up RiteCheck’s program…Learn More
February 13, 2012
Will Saying “I Do” Affect Your Saving?
The single-married divide is dramatic: single adults between the ages of 22 and 35 are far less likely to have retirement savings accounts than are married people their age.
This difference, which is most pronounced for women but also true for men, highlights a conflict between two mega-trends. The number of single Americans has surged to nearly 100 million – 43 percent of the adult population. Yet they are less likely to save at a time that all young Americans face greater responsibility for funding their own retirement than any prior generation.
About 22 percent of single women have employer-sponsored retirement accounts, compared with 44 percent of married women. For single men, only 28 percent have employer accounts, while 44 percent of married men do, according to a February paper in the Journal of Marriage and Family by researchers at the Social Security Administration (SSA).
“By highlighting the link between marriage and retirement savings in young adulthood, our analysis identifies an often-overlooked economic outcome related to marriage,” SSA researchers Melissa Knoll, Christopher Tamborini, and Kevin Whitman write. Data for their sample of 3,894 people came from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances in 2001, 2004, and 2007.Learn More
February 2, 2012
Teen Play about Money is “Eye Opening!”
“Money Matters,” a play that opened last weekend in Cambridge, Mass., demonstrated the financial wit of its teenage actors at the same time that they – and the audience – embraced the complexities of money.
Credit versus debt, income differences among classmates, money and relationships, certificates of deposit, needs versus wants – this only scratches the surface of the subject matter in the Youth Underground theater production, which begins touring the Boston area in February.
The actors clearly were having fun, but their performance served as an educational tool that might be replicated. For example, the screenplay was based on the actors and other teenagers’ 80-some interviews of community residents about their financial viewpoints and mishaps. The stories generated ideas for the vignettes that were stitched into a screenplay.
“Very eye-opening!” audience member Cameron Netland, 16, said after the performance.
“I learned the difference between saving and spending and between debit and credit!” said Aaliyah Nathan, 14, who, wearing black suede boots to the performance, admitted a weakness for new shoes. …Learn More
January 26, 2012
Questioning Wall Street Convention
Walk into your financial adviser’s or broker’s office, and the conversation inevitably leads to your portfolio’s “asset allocation” and “total return.”
Financial planners, the media, investors – we’ve been under Wall Street’s spell for three decades. But a small chorus of skeptics, bucking the orthodoxy, argues that brokers and planners don’t always match investments with an individual’s goals and needs. The human gets lost – in more ways than one.
“People are being guided by the asset management industry,” said Boston University finance professor Zvi Bodie, co-author, with consultant Rachelle Taqqu, of “Risk Less and Prosper: Your Guide to Safer Investing.”
The industry’s premise is that “you can’t afford not to take risk,” he said, referring to the tenet that more risk means a larger potential return. But what happens if you roll the dice and lose? “They never say that,” he said.
Keen to this critique, Barclays in London and a few other large investment houses have started pitching wealthy clients by focusing on their “unique” circumstances.Learn More
January 24, 2012
Young Adults Adrift in E-Spending Ocean
Collectibles purchased online range from Russel Wright dinnerware (shown here) to songs and video. Source: backhomeagainvintage.
Credit cards and malls are so yesterday.
Young adults move easily among an array of online payment and shopping options unimaginable a decade ago: PayPal, Groupon, telephone bill payment, smartphone apps that pay for store purchases, online retailers galore, automatic bank payments, and online gift cards.
Technology is moving fast: Amazon recently released an app called “Flow” that will recognize a product — from a book to a jar of Nutella — and then send the price, user reviews and a “Buy It Now” option to your smartphone.
It’s time to take stock of how easy it has become to overspend and how difficult saving is for young adults weaned on e-transactions.
“When it doesn’t feel like money, people don’t treat it like money,” said Priya Raghubir, a professor at the New York University Stern School of Business, neatly summing up her 2008 paper, “Monopoly Money: The Effect on Payment Coupling and Form on Spending Behavior.”
It’s extremely hard for young adults to change their behavior, “because they aren’t used to any other way of paying,” said Raghubir, 48, who remembers the old paper-transaction days when cash was king and checks were reserved for the big purchases…Learn More
January 19, 2012
Women Crave More Information
It’s common knowledge that women save less in their retirement plans than men do. This is a major problem, because they live longer, are more likely to require nursing home care, and need more money.
To learn why women save less, Karen Holden and Sara Kock at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, recently conducted focus groups with state employees and analyzed data for the Wisconsin Deferred Compensation Program. Similar to a 401k, the program for Wisconsin government workers also allows tax-deductible, voluntary contributions, though there is no employer match. Squared Away interviewed Holden about their findings.
Q: Do women save less, because they earn less?
Holden: Average lower earnings are a factor but more surprising is that, at any specific salary level, women contribute a lower percentage of their earnings than do men. Women on average contribute 6.28 percent of gross pay, compared with 7.03 percent for men. While lower pay and age differences accounted for some of that, being a woman led to lower contribution rates. …Learn More