Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Kiplinger ran a story promoting the idea of practicing for retirement. 4 Reasons to Hold a Retirement Dress Rehearsal suggests you take a trial run at retirement before making it permanent. For example, thinking about moving to a warmer climate, buying a condo on a golf course, moving into a senior housing complex, or something else, the article suggests trying out the plan temporarily. The advantages of doing so allow you to get a better idea of the expenses of living this new life, whether you physically can manage this new life, discover if more hours for hobbies translate into more (or less) fun, and learn whether you want to be closer or farther away from your family. The article offers this list of things to check out when thinking about moving:
- Availability of health care
- Recreational opportunities
- Access to transportation (area airports, major highways, etc.)
- Community and potential friendships
- Ease of visiting family (or visa versa)
Monday, October 9, 2017
A recent column in the New York Times mentioned several books that focus on caring for elders. Hard-Won Advice in Books on Aging and Elder Care is written by the columnist who has been authoring a series of columns about Medicaid as Congress focused on health care repeal. As a result of those columns, some of the comments the author received were recommendations of books for the author to read. Using the criteria of those books mentioned at least twice, the author read and wrote about 4 books, which the author describes as "in their own way utterly essential reading. Few of us are prepared for the financial and emotional complexities of managing the last several years of our lives. But as we live longer, drain what may prove to be inadequate retirement savings and lean harder on already strained government programs, we’ll probably find ourselves facing ever more challenging questions and unfortunate compromises." The books he includes in his column are Being Mortal, the 36 Hour Day, A Bittersweet Season and Being My Mom's Mom.
What books might you recommend to your students?
Steve Moran, who writes for Senior Housing Forum, a website that offers itself as a "place for conversation and collaboration," always seems willing to take on sensitive topics. Recently, in a commentary piece entitled Black Consumers and Senior Living, he nonetheless began:
I am terrified to be writing and publishing this article. It seems that writing anything about race is fraught with all kinds of downsides and very little in the way of upside. Except that we have an ethnic problem in senior living. Today, based on resident populations, only white people (and Asians) seem to like senior living.
He addresses provider attempts to "explain away" the problem and arguments about whether "Blacks and Whites have different world views." Ultimately, recognizing the need for both sensitivity and fearlessness, he concludes, "[I]f senior living is really a great thing, and I believe it is, then we have an obligation" to make it available to everyone.
Certainly there are "marketing" reasons to reach out to a broader circle of perspective clients to offer supportive, attractive community living. But, I think Steve's short post is a good start on other fundamental questions about what consumers want, need, expect, and cherish as they approach some invisible line that makes them eligible for senior living.
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Do you consider yourself to be old? Well, if you are over 37, statistically you are old, according to an article in the New York Times, Feeling Older? Here’s How to Embrace It. However, "S[s]udies show that people start feeling old in their 60s, and a Pew Research Center survey found that nearly 3,000 respondents said 68 was the average age at which old age begins." The article offers tips to embrace your aging, including having perspective about aging, be friends with various generations (helps with loneliness), and make decisions about "good" aging (for example, "[c]hoices about lifestyles and behaviors can influence the effects of so-called secondary aging.") Aging is organic, but don't just let it happen-plan for it and make appropriate decisions! The article also offers these tip:s welcome the positives (identify activities that are enriching for you) and reject ageist notions. Age is a great equalizer-everyone ages, even without realization. For example, say it took you two minutes to read this post. You are now two minutes older.
Various milestones — birthdays, changes in careers and the deaths of siblings and peers — are reminders of the passage of time, but you should not lose focus on finding meaning and quality in life, Mr. Kaplan ["assistant professor of social work at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y."] wrote.
“For many people, old age creeps up slowly and sometimes without fanfare or acknowledgment,” he wrote. “While most people enjoy relative continuity over the decades, being able to adapt to the changing context of our lives is the key to success throughout life.”
Thursday, September 14, 2017
How well-prepared are you for financing your retirement? Do you know your family's finances? The New York Times examined the situations that may be faced by women who are older who are not involved in the handling of their family's finances. Helping Women Over 50 Face Their Financial Fears covers a lecture series, Women and Wills, designed specifically for women over 50 that cover a variety of topics, including estate planning. health care, insurance, long term care, business succession planning and more. The founders are well aware that some women may not be up to speed on their family's finances, or other circumstances such as a spouse's illness, may present challenges for them. The founders plan to take their lecture series on the road, nationwide, and publish a book on the importance of planning.
Thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn for sending a link to the article.
Monday, August 28, 2017
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has released three resources on reverse mortgages:
1. https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201708_cfpb_costs-and-risks-of-using-reverse-mortgage-to-delay-collecting-ss.pdf on using a reverse mortgage to delay taking SSA retirement. The issue brief, The costs and risks of using a reverse mortgage to delay collecting Social Security runs 27 pages and is downloadable as a pdf. As the conclusion explains
We find that borrowing a reverse mortgage loan to get an increased Social Security benefit carries significant costs that generally exceed the additional lifetime amount gained from delaying Social Security. In addition, the amount that a consumer will need to borrow from a reverse mortgage loan to delay claiming Social Security benefits could negatively affect the consumer’s ability to move or use their home equity to meet a large expense later in life.
For consumers who have the option, working past age 62 is usually a less costly way to increase their monthly Social Security benefit than borrowing from a reverse mortgage.40 The extra years of work often provide people more time to save for retirement and pay off debts. The extra years of work may also result in an increase in Social Security benefits—separate from the increase that arises from deferring the start of benefits—by replacing years with low or no earnings from the person’s earnings record.41 Consumers may also consider other options to increase their Social Security benefit, such as coordinating their claiming decision with their spouses.
As consumers consider borrowing a reverse mortgage loan in order to delay claiming Social Security benefits or defer withdrawing funds from retirement savings, it is important for them to be aware of the risks and costs associated with this strategy. This is especially true for consumers whose primary source of income is Social Security and whose main asset is their home. For those consumers, the costs of a reverse mortgage loan will likely exceed the lifetime amount of money gained from an increased Social Security benefit, which in turn may threaten their financial security later in life.
The second resource is a discussion guide on reverse mortgages a twenty-four page pdf that provides "an overview of many key concepts of reverse mortgages." The guide is organized by the requirements for a reverse mortgage and includes illustrations and graphics for each. This is a very helpful tool!
The agency's blog also discusses this new resources. Add these to your collection of resources!
Monday, July 17, 2017
The SSA Trustees released the 2017 annual report on July 13, 2017. You can download the 269 page report as a pdf here or you can contact the Office of the Chief Actuary for a hard cc of the report. There is a lot of information in this report, but of course, what everyone wants to know is whether Social Security is running out of money. Section II, the Highlights, offers this conclusion
Under the intermediate assumptions, DI Trust Fund asset reserves are projected to become depleted in 2028, at which time continuing income to the DI Trust Fund would be sufficient to pay 93 percent of DI scheduled benefits. Therefore, legislative action is needed to address the DI program’s financial imbalance. The OASI Trust Fund reserves are projected to become depleted in 2035, at which time OASI income would be sufficient to pay 75 percent of OASI scheduled benefits.
The Trustees also project that annual cost for the OASDI program will exceed non-interest income throughout the projection period, and will exceed total income beginning in 2022 under the intermediate assumptions. The projected hypothetical combined OASI and DI Trust Fund asset reserves increase through 2021, begin to decline in 2022, and become depleted and unable to pay scheduled benefits in full on a timely basis in 2034. At the time of depletion of these combined reserves, continuing income to the combined trust funds would be sufficient to pay 77 percent of scheduled benefits. Lawmakers have a broad continuum of policy options that would close or reduce Social Security's long-term financing shortfall. Cost estimates for many such policy options are available at www.ssa.gov/OACT/solvency/provisions/.
The Trustees recommend that lawmakers address the projected trust fund shortfalls in a timely way in order to phase in necessary changes gradually and give workers and beneficiaries time to adjust to them. Implementing changes sooner rather than later would allow more generations to share in the needed revenue increases or reductions in scheduled benefits and could preserve more trust fund reserves to help finance future benefits. Social Security will play a critical role in the lives of 62 million beneficiaries and 173 million covered workers and their families in 2017. With informed discussion, creative thinking, and timely legislative action, Social Security can continue to protect future generations.
Thursday, July 6, 2017
We have blogged on several occasions about the important role adult children play in family caregiving. Ever wonder just how much care the kids are providing? The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College looked at that specific question.
How Much Long-Term Care Do Adult Children Provide?, an issue brief, offered these key findings:
As people age and their health deteriorates, they begin to need more help with daily activities.
- While many formal long-term care services are available, cost concerns and personal preferences lead many to rely on informal care from adult children.
At any given point, 6 percent of adult children serve as caregivers, and 17 percent will take on this role at some point in their lives.
Those who do provide care devote an average of 77 hours per month, which can take a toll on both the finances and health of the caregiver.
The caregiving burden on adult children is likely to become a bigger concern as baby boomers move into their 80s.
Look again at the numbers. Seventeen percent of adult kids will be caregivers at some point and at almost 80 hours a month, it's almost like working half-time. Here is the conclusion to the brief:
At any point in time, few adult children are taking care of their parents. But, over the course of their lives, about 17 percent of adults end up providing care for their parents. And when children do care for par- ents, the commitment is large – 77 hours per month. As baby boomers enter their 80s, a large increase in the demand for long-term care is likely, with a commensurate rise in the reliance on care from their children. Since boomers had fewer children per household than the previous generation, this develop- ment will place an unprecedented burden on their children, with implications for their physical, mental, and nancial well-being. However, research also suggests that the issue may be more challenging than just the relative sizes of the generations. After all, divorced parents need more support from children, and those children are more likely to provide support if they live nearby. For a generation characterized by low fertility, unstable marriages, and far- ung children, this situation sug- gests that the informal care the boomers will need may not be there – and demand for formal care will soon increase beyond its historical levels. Policymakers and the private sector must confront this prospect, with its attendant burdens on the long-term care sector and insurers of long-term care – the largest of which by far is an already overburdened Medicaid system.
Consider the last sentence of the conclusion in light of the debated Congressional action on the Affordable Care Act.
The full brief is available here.
Thursday, June 15, 2017
When thinking about Social Security for retirement purposes, we know that recipients can be confused about when to draw benefits. But it may also be unclear what type of benefits are available for certain beneficiaries. So Kiplinger's Social Security quiz is a quick and easy way to test your Social Security knowledge. The 10 multiple choice questions covers topics such as early retirement, spousal benefits, the effect of divorce, dependent benefits, the trust fund and the future of Social Security. Check it out!
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
According to a recent story in Investment News, FINRA is going to provide brokerages with more guidance on dealing with "rogue brokers." Finra CEO Robert Cook promises to give brokerages more guidance on overseeing rogue brokers explains that "[FINRA] intends to help brokerages better identify and supervise brokers with checkered disciplinary histories who may pose risks to investors. In coming months, the broker-dealer self-regulator will delineate [FINRA's expectations]...." The article relates pressures on FINRA to do something about brokers that move from firm to firm.
At its May meeting, Finra's board advanced proposals that would allow tougher penalties for brokers with certain past infractions, enable disciplinary hearing panels to restrict the activities of brokers and firms while a case is on appeal, and require firms to strengthen supervision while a "disqualification request" is under review or a broker is appealing a hearing decision.
There's a working group on this issue and FINRA is considered other measures, with any final regs needing SEC approval.
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Our exclusive Retirement Savings Calculator will help you estimate the future value of your retirement savings and determine how much more you need to save each month to reach your retirement goal. Actual results will depend on how much you contribute to your retirement accounts, the rate-of-return on your investments, and how long you live. (The calculator does not take taxes on your retirement income into account so your actual spendable income will be less.)
Try it out. It really is quick and easy. It would be a great tool to use with our students to get them thinking about financial security and the importance of planning for retirement.!
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
As I reported here for the first time recently, Pennsylvania's Governor Wolf has proposed consolidation -- or as he prefers to call it -- unification -- of four separate administrative agencies, the Departments of Aging, Health, Human Services (formerly Public Welfare) and Drug & Alcohol Treatment Programs. Are similar budget-driven changes occurring in your state?
As I catch up with events in Pennsylvania, I'm learning from readers about growing concerns about the possible merger.
- As one recently retired PA legislator pointed out, there seems to be little in the way of a written plan for how services will be handled under this merger. Rather, the merger appears mostly as a description of budget items, with a lot of "minus" signs to indicate cuts. Perhaps by design, Pennsylvania government is often a bad example of transparency for governments. What is the real plan, if any?
- With the consolidation, at a minimum, older Pennsylvanians would be losing a cabinet level post, their singular, dedicated spokesperson. This would be likely to affect all future budget and programming battles.
- The timing is, to use a favorite Trump adjective, "sad." While the leading edge of the big wave of aging baby boomers began to be felt a few years ago when those born in in 1945 started turning age 65 in 2010, the "real" need for an effective advocate is when boomers start turning age 75, age 80 and so on, the higher ages when they are more likely to need or question access to services.
Perhaps of greatest significance is the potential impact of consolidation on the process for assessment of need for services and assistance, especially Medical Assistance.
Under the current allocation of resources, "assessment" of need is handled by individuals employed under the authority of Pennsylvania's Department of Aging.
However, the financial allocations are currently determined under the authority of the Department of Human Services. Consolidation might make sense on paper, but wait!
As one of my mentors in aging, Northern Ireland's former Commissioner of Older People Claire Keatinge, says, to be helpful, fair and effective, any individual assessment of need for health care, social care and security, should be exactly that -- individualized and focused on the client, and should not be simply a match to "what services (if any) are available." That process-based distinction is critical to determining current and future funding priorities.
In Pennsylvania, the lion's share of budget and personnel for aging services has long been housed in the Department of Human Services (formerly Public Welfare), but those workers -- perhaps by necessity and perhaps by design, have often functioned as dedicated bean counters, as in "here's what services we fund, so do you or don't you meet the eligibility criteria?"
By losing the aging assessment focus of the current Department of Aging, it seems likely the state would compromise, and perhaps lose entirely, the independent thinking and opportunity for critical needs-based assessment.
Several elder-focused organizations have raised these and other key points in opposition to the existing budget-based consolidation proposal. Those active in the debate include:
- The Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (PAELA) has asked thoughtful legislators to "oppose such consolidation" as presented in the current budget proposal. As Pittsburgh Elder Law attorney Julian Gray testified on May 1 in state Senate hearings, a "bigger" agency is not necessarily a "better" agency.
- Representatives for the service organization for Pennsylvania senior service workers, P4A, testified strongly in favor of the role of the Department of Aging as the advocate for the "unique needs of seniors." Speakers focused too on the Department's historical role in protecting and managing a unique funding stream dedicated to seniors, "lottery" funds.
- Long-time practitioner and elder law guru, Jeff Marshall, has a comprehensive commentary, with links, detailing the history and importance of Pennsylvania's Department of Aging. There's a simple bottom line expressed here -- "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
- Related articles
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Social Security is a popular social insurance program administered by the Social Security Administration. It provides critical resources and economic security to many workers who are retired or have a disability, as well as to their survivors and dependents. This webinar is designed for legal services and other advocates who are just getting started in the field and others who want to learn more about the essentials of the program. This Legal Basics: Social Security webinar will cover the basics of the Social Security program and the rules surrounding it, including general information on how the program works and who is eligible to claim benefits (including spouses and children). We will also discuss other basic information such as timing considerations when applying for benefits, how benefits are calculated, and suggestions on where to find further information.
To register for this free webinar, click here.
Friday, May 12, 2017
On May 10, 2017, my research colleagues Gavin Davidson (Queens University Belfast) and Subhajit Basu (University of Leeds) participated in a policy briefing at Stormont, the Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast. They appeared in support of recommendations by the Commissioner of Older People (COPNI) Eddie Lynch on a major plan for modernization of social care programs for vulnerable adults (of any age).
Professors Davidson and Basu focused on three key recommendations:
- Northern Ireland should have a single legislative framework for adult social care with accompanying guidance for implementation. This could either be new or consolidated legislation, based on human rights principles, bringing existing social care law together into one coherent framework.
- All older people in Northern Ireland, once they reach the age of 75 years, should be offered a Support Visit by an appropriately trained professional. This will be based on principles of choice and self-determination and is aimed at helping older people to be aware of the support and preventative services that are available to them.
- Increasing demands for health and social care reinforce the importance of considering how these services should be funded. All future funding arrangements must be equitable and not discriminate against any group who may have higher levels of need.
The audience, which included researchers, social service program administrators and elected officials (not only from Northern Ireland, but elsewhere, including the Isle of Man), reportedly responded strongly to the recommendations, especially to the concept of specially-trained "support visitors," offered to persons age 75 or older. The intent is to provide individuals with planning support and, where needed, medical assessment. Guidance and information is often needed for pre-crisis planning, thus moving in the direction of prevention of crises and reduction of need for last-minute response. The support visitor concept has been used successfully in Denmark and other locations in Europe. The next step for Northern Ireland would likely be a pilot or test project.
As a co-author of the research reports that led to the COPNI recommendations, working with Professors Gavin Davidson and Subhajit Basu as part of a team headed by Dr. Joe Duffy of Queens University Belfast, I found it an interesting coincidence that at almost the same time as the Northern Ireland government session, I was addressing similar interests in "preventative" planning while speaking on elder abuse in a "Day on the Hill" program at the Capitol in Pennsylvania, hosted by the Alzheimer's Association. It is clear that on both sides of the Atlantic, we are interested in cost-effective, proactive measures to help people stay in their homes safely.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Writing for the Institute for Family Studies, George Washington Law Professor Naomi Cahn and University of Minnesota Law Professor June Carbone dig into the black and white of statistics on "gray" divorce, with interesting observations. For example:
First, some good news for everyone: the divorce rate is still not all that high for those over the age of 50. Yes, it has doubled over the past 30 years: in 1990, five out of every 1,000 married people divorced, and in 2010, it was 10 out of every 1,000 married people. And yes, the rate has risen much more dramatically for gray Americans than for those under 50; in fact, there was a decline in the rate for those between the ages of 25-39. But the divorce rate for those over 50 is still half the rate for those under 50.
Divorce for older individuals often does have significant impacts for individuals in retirement, as they point out:
These statistics don’t mean that gray divorce isn’t a problem. Those who divorce at older ages, like those who divorce at younger ages, tend to have less wealth than those who remain married, with the gray divorced having only one-fifth of the assets of gray married couples. Compared to married couples, gray divorced women have relatively low Social Security benefits and relatively high poverty rates. While gray married, remarried, and cohabiting couples have poverty rates of four percent or less, 11 percent of men who divorced after the age of 50 were in poverty, and 27 percent of the women were in poverty.
For more, read "Who is at Risk for a Gray Divorce? It Depends."
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Justice in Aging has released a new fact sheet, New Guidance from SSA on Spousal & Survivors Benefits for Married LGBT Individuals. "On March 1, 2017, the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced it would reopen any decision to deny spousal or survivors benefits to a same-sex spouse based on a discriminatory marriage ban, which resulted in a loss of benefits to the individual who filed the claim." The fact sheet notes an SSA ruling and POMS. "This policy change applies to applications for spousal or survivors benefits that SSA denied prior to the Windsor and Obergefell decisions because it did not recognize their marriages. Even those who began receiving SSA benefits following the Supreme Court decisions may be due retroactive benefits for the period between when they first applied (and were denied) and when SSA finally recognized their marriage." The fact sheet also explains who is not affected as well as who might be. The fact sheet concludes explaining that SSA is in the process of reaching out to 800 beneficiaries whose benefits were denied to tell them their applications are being reopened.
Click here to read the full fact sheet.
Friday, April 14, 2017
The AARP blog, Thinking Policy last week posted about new data: Labor force participation rate for people ages 55+ edges up in March
The monthly Employment Situation Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows the economy added 98,000 jobs in March 2017 — an unexpectedly smaller increase from the first two months of the year. The number of persons ages 55+ who are employed increased slightly from February. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for those ages 55 and older remained unchanged, at 3.4 percent and approximately 1.2 million unemployed. The percentage of the 55+ population that is either working or actively seeking work, i.e. the labor force participation rate, increased slightly to 40.1 percent. The labor force participation rate of persons ages 55+ has remained at around 40 percent throughout the past year. In March the labor force participation rate of men ages 55+ was 46.1 percent, compared with 34.9 percent for women ages 55+.
The post specifically examines the data about women in the workforce, with the highest percentage of those 55 and older hitting the high in 2013. "Education has been a key factor influencing women’s labor force participation and is likely to continue to have an impact in the future. Over the past several years, women earned the majority of college degrees of all levels. If this trend continues, employers faced with the need for college-educated workers are likely to seek more ways to attract and retain female employees. This in turn may influence the number of women in the labor market – and the number who continue to work at older ages."
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Are you a Parrot Head? (If you don't know what I mean, the answer to the question is no). Whether you are a Parrot Head or not, wouldn't you love to retire to Margaritaville? Now you can! Jimmy Buffet is opening a chain of 55+ communities within the next year or so. Forbes ran a story last week with the exciting news! Jimmy Buffett To Open String Of Margaritaville Retirement Homes By 2018 explains the plan: "[t]he golden years are looking even brighter with news that Jimmy Buffett is planning to open a string of luxurious Margaritaville retirement home communities, the first in Daytona Beach, Florida. Retirees will be able to live in a paradise where the party never stops and 'growing older, but not up' is encouraged. The price tag will start in the low $200s and furnished models are scheduled to open in early 2018 for those '55 and better.'"
So what will we do if we live in Margaritaville? According to the story "[t]his utopia promises retirees exciting recreation, fitness facilities, lap pools, spas, personal beachfront access, unmatched dining and an entertaining nightlife. Minto Communities has 60 years of experience developing award-winning, master-planned communities and building quality homes for over 80,000 families."
You can read more about this project here .
See you there!
PS-have the song stuck in your head yet?
Thursday, March 9, 2017
You know experience is a good teacher. So imagine getting advice about retirement from someone who is living it? The New York Times ran a wonderful article, From the Elders to the Kids: What I Wish I’d Known. The assignment for a group of "journalism students from five colleges and universities [was] to talk with retirees, and find out what they wish they had known when they were the students’ age." The conversations were recorded and can be viewed on the website. One thing that struck me is that of those individuals featured in the print part of the project retired at a fairly "young" age, ranging between 51 and 67.
Questions included what did the elders wish they had known about retirement when they were the ages of the interviewers, what they wished they had done in preparing for retirement, living a healthy lifestyle, keep active, etc. In one of my classes, I have students interview someone they know who they consider to be an elder. I'm going to include the "what should I know now about preparing for retirement" to the list of questions the students ask. Anyone else assign any similar exercise to their students?
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
The teachers' pension fund in Puerto Rico is the latest example of an under-funded government-operated retirement plan. A unique complication of the Puerto Rico teachers' plan is the decision to opt out of Social Security as a separate form of retirement income. In a recent New York Times article, the reporter makes the the analogy to a Ponzi scheme:
Puerto Rico, where the money to pay teachers’ pensions is expected to run out next year, has become a particularly extreme example of a problem facing states including Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania: As teachers’ pension costs keep rising, young teachers are being squeezed — sometimes hard. One study found that more than three-fourths of all American teachers hired at age 25 will end up paying more into pension plans than they ever get back.
“I think they’re really being taken advantage of,” said Richard W. Johnson of the Urban Institute, a co-author of the research. “What’s so tragic about this is, often the new hires aren’t aware that they’re getting such a bad deal.”
The problem is magnified by the fact that the Puerto Rico teachers union — like many teachers and police unions around the country — opted out of Social Security long ago, hoping it could save both workers and the government money by not paying Social Security taxes.
That decision was predicated on the assurance that the workers’ pensions would be well managed and adequately funded. But in Puerto Rico, as in some other places, that has not been true for decades.
For more, read In Puerto Rico, Teachers' Pension Fund Works Like a Ponzi Scheme.