Monday, June 8, 2015

Living a Longer, Fulfilling Life?

The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article on May 31 about longevity and how to have a fulfilling life with those extra years of living.   How to Make the Most of Longer Lives focuses not just on planning financially for living longer, but questions what to do with those added years to be sure one has a  meaningful life. The author suggests "[w]e need to marshal imagination and ingenuity to devise new strategies for enhancing the whole range of experiences in later life, including education, faith, housing, work, finance and community" and then offers six suggestions to increase the quality of life: (1) give a new name to this period of life; (2) smooth the way to transition into this part of life (or as the author explains it retirement and then "un-retirement" is "a do-it-yourself process. It’s time to help make this post-midlife passage more efficient and suited to preparing individuals emotionally and spiritually for what lies ahead."); (3) education specifically for the second half of life (4) financial security; (5) promote multi-generational housing; (6) create a model where inventors brainstorm new ideas for this part of life.

The author concludes with reference to the upcoming White House Conference on Aging and the challenges that await all of us with aging.

June 8, 2015 in Current Affairs, Other, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

EBRI 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey

The Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) has released the results of their annual retirement confidence survey. The 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey is available here. There are also 7 fact sheets that highlight specific findings, including caregivers, retirement confidence, changing expectations, preparing for retirement, age comparisons, gender & marital status, and attitudes about Social Security & Medicare.

June 3, 2015 in Current Affairs, Retirement, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

More on Family Caregivers

A few days back I wrote about a new study on family caregivers published by Pew. The Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) has added to the body of literature on the topic with its 2015 Fact Sheet #7 from EBRI's 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey. Financial Support & Unpaid Care  Provided by  Americans  The purpose of the annual survey is to gather data about "potential barriers in building up assets or maintaining them." One question "[I]n particular, [asked about] the amount of financial support provided for relatives or friends and the amount of unpaid care provided for them as well." Perhaps the results will surprise you.  "Three in 10 (29 percent) workers and 2 in 10 (20 percent) retirees report they are currently providing financial support to a relative or friend."  The survey also inquired about unpaid care, which as we know has a cost to the caregiver. When asked respondents whether they provided unpaid care, the survey found              "[t]wenty-three percent of workers and 16 percent of retirees responded that they did so."

The fact sheet offers a couple of other interesting data points.  The spouse is actually not frequently the recipient of the care, with "5 percent of retirees and 4 percent of workers name their spouse as a recipient of their care." As far as the amount of time spent providing care, slightly over 40% of workers and a little under 40% of retirees provided fewer than 9 hours a week in care.

June 2, 2015 in Current Affairs, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Report on Home & Community Based Services and Supports

The GAO has issued a new report on how Home  & Community Based Services & Supports are delivered.  Older Adults Federal Strategy Needed to Help Ensure Efficient and Effective Delivery of Home and Community-Based Services and Supports is a 60 page report that "addresses (1) federal programs that fund these services and supports for older adults, (2) how these services and supports are planned and delivered in selected localities, and (3) agencies’ efforts to promote a coordinated federal system of these services and supports."  The GAO recommends in the report "that HHS facilitate development of a cross agency federal strategy to ensure efficient and effective use of federal resources for HCBS. HHS concurred and HUD, DOT, and USDA did not comment." A number of topics are covered, including transportation, aging in place, information and referral, housing, in-home services, and food assistance. The report discusses the importance of cross-agency collaboration. The GAO concludes that

As the older population continues to grow, communities will find it increasingly difficult to meet the demand for the HCBS and supports many older adults will need to age in their own homes and communities. Based on recent trends, federal funding at AoA, HUD, and DOT for HCBS and supports is not likely to keep pace with demand for these services and supports, making it important to ensure that the federal resources available for this purpose are used effectively and efficiently. Development of a cross-agency federal strategy could better position the federal agencies to assist area agencies on aging and community-based organizations with providing HCBS and supports in the most efficient and effective manner. Under the Older Americans Act, AoA is responsible for facilitating the provision of home and community-based services and supports for older adults in this country, in coordination with CMS and other federal agencies. As a result, AoA is well-positioned to lead collaboration among the five federal agencies covered in our review. However, because of increases in Medicaid spending and emphasis on the role of HCBS in supporting health care patients, CMS has become an even more important partner to AoA in meeting older adults’ expected demand for HCBS. Thus, it may be most appropriate for the HHS Secretary to take the initiative in developing such a cross-agency federal strategy.


May 31, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

New Survey on Retirement Readiness

Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies has issued their 16th Annual Retirement Survey of Older Workers.  Retirement Throughout the Ages: Expectations & Preparations of American Workers was released in May of 2015. The 81 page report offers a number of key highlights, including views by age group (in ten year increments). The report provides recommendations for workers, employers and policymakers. The report offers this conclusion  

Workers of all ages have similar challenges, dreams, fears, and expectations of retirement. Depending on their age and stage in life, they also face unique opportunities to improve their long-term financial security. Although it may seem overwhelming for many, taking one step at a time can lead to significant improvements over the long-term. The following three pages of these Key Highlights outline such steps for workers, employers, and policymakers.

It’s never too soon or too late to start saving and planning for retirement.

May 28, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Study-Family Caregivers in 3 Countries

On several occasions we have blogged about the increasing need for family caregivers. Thus the new report from Pew Research Center is quite timely.  Family Support in Graying Societies: How Americans, Germans and Italians are Coping with an Aging Population was released in May 2015. The purpose of the report is to provide an

understanding intergenerational relations in three countries that are undergoing rapid aging – the United States, Germany and Italy. Parallel surveys were administered in these three countries, the grayest of the West’s advanced economies, to explore the ways in which families are coping or providing support across generations as they experience this major demographic shift. The surveys were conducted among 1,692 adults in the United States, 1,700 in Germany and 1,516 in Italy, from Oct. 27 to Dec. 18, 2014.

The report is divided into six sections, including demographics & financial profiles,  family providing care, aging in the 3 countries, helping parents, helping the kids who provide care and keeping in touch. There is very valuable information in the report.  The full report runs 59 pages and is available here.

May 27, 2015 in Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How Much Money Will You Have at the End of Your Life?

The Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) published a note in April, 2015 that looked at the question of how much money people have at the end of their lives.  A Look At the End-of-Life Financial Situation in America. Here is what the study examined

This report takes a comprehensive look at the financial situation of older Americans at the end of their lives. In particular, it documents the percentage of households with a member who recently died with very few assets (total assets as well as non-housing assets). It also documents income, debt, home-ownership rates, net home equity and the share of their income coming from Social Security benefits for those households.

This report is useful as part of the work by EBRI in looking at retirement security and whether people will have sufficient funds to last the rest of their lives.  Here are some bullets from the conclusion:

  • For those who died at ages 85 or above, 20.6 percent had no non-housing assets and 12.2 percent had no assets left.
  • Among singles who died at or above age 85, 24.6 percent had no non-housing assets left and 16.7 percent had no assets left.
  • Those who died at earlier ages were generally worse off financially: 29.8 percent of households that lost a member between ages 50 and 64 had no assets left. 
  • People who died earlier also had significantly lower household income than households with all surviving members. 
  • Among singles who died at ages 85 or above, 9.1 percent had outstanding debt (other than mortgage debt) and the average debt amount was $6,368. 
  • The average net equity left in their primary residence for those who died at ages 85 or above was $141,147 and $83,471 for couple and single households, respectively.

May 26, 2015 in Other, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Massachusetts Case Demonstrates Significance of Contracts in Senior Living Options

This week I attended the 16th Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Life Care Residents Association (MLCRA) near Boston.  Having last met with the group in 2011, I was impressed with the residents' on-going commitment to staying abreast of legal and practical developments affecting life care and continuing care (CCRC) models for senior living.  Their organization has some 800 individual members, representing a majority of the communities in the state. 

MILCRA Annual Meeting 2015In 2012, MLCRA was successful in advocating for passage of amendments that substituted "shall" for "may" in the laws governing key disclosures to be made to prospective and current residents. 

My preparation for the meeting gave me the opportunity to read one of those troubling "unpublished" -- but still significant -- opinions that shed light on attempts to make consumer protections stick.  Here the "contract" trumped the statute. 

In a February 2014 decision in Krens, v. 1611 Cold Spring Road Operating Company, a son who sought refund of his deceased mother's $282,579 partially "refundable" Entrance Fee was denied relief by a Massachusetts appellate court, despite the fact that Massachusetts law expressly mandated that a continuing care contract "shall provide" for a refund to be paid "when the resident leaves the facility or dies." The reasoning? The actual contract provided merely that the refund could be paid "within 30 days of actual occupancy of the vacated unit by a new resident." More than three years had elapsed since the mother's passing, apparently without the unit being "resold" or rented, and therefore the CCRC operating company took the position that no refund obligation had been triggered.

Continue reading

May 20, 2015 in Consumer Information, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Drops in Occupancy Mark Challenges to Financial Health for Senior Living Industries

Publically-traded Brookdale Senior Living, founded in 1978, has grown to become the largest owner and operator of "senior living" communities in the U.S., including for-profit continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). Thus, it is good to keep an eye on the finances of Brookdale for those of us interested in the long-term financial health of CCRCs and other senior housing options.

Steve Monroe at Irving Levin Associates notes that Brookdale "was no different than the rest of the market, posting sharp drops in first quarter occupancy" for 2015:

"The legacy Emeritus [a component of Brookdale, following a 2014 merger] properties posted a 110 basis point decline from the fourth quarter of 2014, and a whopping 200 basis point decline from a year ago. The legacy Brookdale properties dropped 80 basis points sequentially and 110 basis points from a year ago. This was not good news, but not unexpected. Oddly enough, the legacy Brookdale properties had a 250 basis point increase in community operating margin to 35.2% despite the occupancy declines. The Emeritus properties had a 90 basis point sequential drop in margin, which makes more sense."

How do you achieve a significant increase in "operating margin" despite "occupancy declines?" A good question to ponder.  Steve Monroe continues: "The reasons for the legacy Brookdale improvement were a combination of cost controls and more pricing flexibility. Move-ins have been increasing, which is great, but 'cost controls' always make me nervous, especially with the current acuity creep. Stay tuned."

The reference to "acuity creep" is to the increase in average age and frailty of new residents, compared with past years (especially before the financial crisis of 2008-10). This trend impacts CCRCs in several ways, both in terms of market appeal to healthier potential residents, and operating costs tied to an earlier need for higher levels of care.  An additional question may be whether low interest rates have supported a bubble in certain segments of senior housing despite the softer occupancy rates, and whether an eventual return to higher capitalization rates will result in lower values and additional consequences.

Along that same line, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a recent article in their "retirement" news edition, noting "Continuing-Care Retirement Community Choice Requires Diligence," by Harold Brubaker, with tips on what to ask if you are a consumer considering a CCRC option.

May 18, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, Retirement, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Are Seniors' Children Appropriate Sources of Reverse Mortgages?

One option for seniors needing more income late in life is using the equity in their homes, and "reverse mortgages" may make it possible for the older homeowner to stay in the home longer.  The Washington Post recently explored the option of having family members serve as the source of reverse mortgage funding.  When the Kids Provide a Reverse Mortgage for Mom and Dad outlines potential pros and cons of family-based financing, starting with the mechanics of the loan:

Here’s a simplified example: Say you and two siblings want to help Mom and Dad, who are in their late 70s. You and your siblings are all doing well enough that you have at least some cash to spare. Ultimately, you want to retain your parents’ house for the estate once your parents pass away, keep costs to a minimum and sell the property only when you, not a faraway bank, choose to do so.


So you sit down with Mom and Dad and determine that, at least for the foreseeable future, they will need about $1,500 in additional income a month. You and your siblings agree to apportion the payments among yourselves in some way, maybe a commitment of $500 a month each for a period of years. You also pick an interest rate that achieves a win-win result for you and your parents — say, 3 percent annually. That’s much lower than a commercial lender would charge but higher than what you’ve been earning on your bank deposits or money market funds. There are no required fees upfront — hey, it’s Mom and Dad.

Thanks to Maryland elder law attorney Morris Klein for the pointer to this article. 

May 13, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Housing, Property Management, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Savings Crisis?

Yesterday I posted about a new report on Americans' views of the "retirement crisis".  Another report from the same organization, National Institute for Retirement Security ,focuses on Americans saving for retirement.  The Continuing Retirement Savings Crisis is a 30 page report that offers 4 key findings:

    1. Account ownership rates are closely correlated with income and wealth…
    2. The average working household has virtually no retirement savings. When all households are included— not just households with retirement accounts—the median retirement account balance is $2,500 for all working-age households and $14,500 for near-retirement households…
    3. Even after counting households’ entire net worth—a generous measure of retirement savings—two thirds (66 percent) of working families fall short of conservative retirement savings targets for their age and income based on working until age 67...
    4. Public policy can play a critical role in putting all Americans on a path toward a secure retirement by strengthening Social Security, expanding access to low cost, high quality retirement plans, and helping low income workers and families save…

The report is available for download here. There is a webinar available (running time slightly over 45 minutes) here. A PowerPoint that accompanies the webinar is also available here.

May 5, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Retirement Crisis? New Report

The National Institute on Retirement Security has issued a new report, Retirement Security 2015: Roadmap for Policy Makers. Americans' Views of the Retirement Crisis.  The 36 page report offers 7 key findings

    1. An overwhelming majority of Americans believe there is a retirement crisis...
    2. Three in four Americans remain highly anxious about their retirement outlook, but the concern has dissipated slightly as the economy has recovered…
    3. Even though Americans feel slightly less stressed about their retirement prospects, support for steady and reliable retirement income from a pension is high and growing…
    4. Americans continue to feel that leaders in Washington do not understand their struggle to save for retirement, and they strongly support efforts by states to set up retirement plans for those workers without access to an employer sponsored plan…
    5. Americans see retirement benefits as a job feature that is almost as important as salary...
    6. Americans express strong support for pensions for public employees…
    7. Protecting Social Security benefits is increasingly important…

The nationwide poll is conducted every two years and "is intended to serve as a tool for policymakers, thought leaders and retirement service providers as they work to stem the retirement crisis and re-fortify the U.S. retirement infrastructure." The full report is available here.

May 4, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

EBRI Looks at "End-of-Life Financial Situation in America"

The Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) recently published an interesting examination of financial situations of older Americans at the end of their lives.  The report documents:

  • the percentage of households with a member who recently died "with few or no assets,"
  • the continued importance of Social Security for older households,
  • the potential importance of "big data" analytics "to determine how people behave when it comes to health and retirement plans," including the potential to "get better results at lower cost," and
  • the fact that the "health sector is considerably farther down the road than the retirement sector in using data analytics in benefits plan design and management."

The report (executive summary here and full PDF here) suggests future avenues for research. 

May 4, 2015 in Housing, Retirement, Social Security, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

My Retirement Paycheck

My Retirement Paycheck is an interactive website from the National Endowment for Financial Education. The website offers 8 icons on which the user clicks to learn more about the topic. The 8 topics include home & mortgage, insurance, retirement plans, savings & investments, debt, fraud, work and Social Security. Each topic offers information in an easy to understand format and links for additional readings.

May 3, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thinking About Fiduciary Duty As A Core Concept for "Elder Law"

I tend to think of "Elder Law" as a subset of "Laws and Policies of Aging."  Given what appears to me to be a steady increase in public concern about ways in which some older persons are exploited financially, it occurs to me that we may be at a point where "fiduciary duty" is becoming a central -- perhaps even the central -- concept for the future practice of Elder Law, overtaking even Medicaid planning and end-of-life health care planning. Seasoned practitioners already know that the "million dollar question" in Elder Law is "who is my client?" -- a question intimately tied to carrying out fiduciary duties as an attorney.

Along that line, I've been digging into my stack of "must read" books, a stack that is always a threat to my safety as it gets taller and taller no matter how fast and furiously I read. I'm very much enjoying a book by Boston University Law Professor Tamar Frankel titled, simply enough, Fiduciary Law (Oxford University Press, 2011). 

Early in the book, the author, whose teaching and research interests include corporation governance and regulation of financial systems, proposes a definition of "fiduciary relationships," which I find both intriguing and conducive to discussion.  I don't think it is taking too much away from her full book, to repeat the four features Professor Frankel proposes as triggering fiduciary duties.  She writes:

Continue reading

April 30, 2015 in Books, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New Report-Boomer Retirement Preparedness

The Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) has issued its 5th annual report on Boomer Retirement Preparedness. Boomer Expectations for Retirement 2015 Fifth Annual Update on the Retirement Preparedness of the Boomer Generation is a 24 page report, and offers the following "key observations":

  • Overall economic satisfaction among Boomers dropped precipitously in 2015, to 48% from 65% in 2014 and further down from 76% in 2011.
  • The decline in overall satisfaction was more pronounced among retirees, plunging to 45% from 72% in 2014, versus 53% of working Boomers feeling satisfied compared to 60% in 2014....
  • Only six in 10 Boomers report having money saved for retirement, down sharply from prior years when approximately eight in 10 had retirement savings.
  • A significant number of Boomers continue to struggle financially; in the past 12 months: 
    •     Almost one-quarter of Boomers reported that they have had difficulty in paying their mortgage or rent. 
    • 19% of working Boomers stopped contributing to a retirement account such as a 401(k) or IRA. 
    • 24% of Boomers postponed plans to retire.
  • The percentage of Boomers feeling extremely or very confident they will have enough money to last throughout retirement has declined significantly, to 27% of Boomers in 2015 from almost four in 10 in 2011.

The report discusses a number of topics including annuity ownership, economic life satisfaction,  short term and long term financial outlook,  retirement expectations, retirement planning, planning for negative results,  and the advantages to using financial advisors.

The report concludes

As a group, the Baby Boomer generation is feeling less confident in their prospects and preparations for a secure retirement, and are more concerned about specific aspects of retirement such as medical expenses, children’s educations, and long term care. Paradoxically, however, many believe they will enjoy a more secure retirement than their parents did, and even those with relatively little saved for retirement and no pensions expect to enjoy travel and leisure activities in retirement in addition to paying for their basic needs and medical costs. While this may be unrealistic for many, the study finds that Boomers who work with financial advisors, and those who own annuities, are far more likely to have set goals, to have saved (and saved more) for retirement, and to feel both more economically satisfied currently and better prepared for retirement.


April 29, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 27, 2015

National Senior Investor Initiative

On April 15, 2015 the SEC and FINRA issued a report, National Senior Investor Initiative. Together the SEC Office of Compliance Inspections & Examinations and FINRA conducted a review of 44 broker-dealers to look at "how firms conduct business with senior investors [65 and older] as they prepare for and enter into retirement." The examinations looked a long list of items in broker-dealer interactions with clients 65 and older, including "how firms address issues relating to aging (e.g., diminished capacity and elder financial abuse or exploitation)..."

This report highlights recent industry trends that have impacted the investment landscape and prior regulatory initiatives that have concentrated on senior investors and industry practices related to senior investors. Additionally, the report discusses key observations and practices identified during the recent series of examinations.

The 42 page report, after providing background on the initiative, discusses 9 topics, including documentation, disclosures, complaints, training, supervision, suitability, marketing, "senior designations" and securities purchased.  Each section contains a conclusion as well as "notable practices."  The overall conclusion includes this excerpt

The current environment, where traditional savings accounts and other conservative investments are earning historically low yields, may prompt firms to recommend and senior investors to purchase more non-traditional securities, such as variable annuities, non-traded REITs, structured products, and other alternative products. OCIE and FINRA staff are concerned that broker-dealers may be recommending unsuitable securities to senior investors or failing to adequately disclose the related risks. It is imperative that senior investors receive proper and understandable disclosures regarding the terms and risks related to securities recommended to them, particularly non-traditional investments.

April 27, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cool Tool-Center for Financial Literacy in Retirement

The Center for Retirement Research-Center for Financial Literacy at Boston College has created a cool tool for folks to recognize bad behaviors that impact retirement.  According to the website

Curious Behaviors That Can Ruin Your Retirement is an interactive program on behavioral impediments to retirement planning. A host leads users through exercises designed to create an “Aha!” moment as they relate to the behaviors. The host then explains how the behavior can hinder retirement planning and how to cope with it. Users can then go to a “Learn More” page with additional information in various media formats.

The link to the tool is available here. It takes about 10 minutes to work through it. Check it out and have your students check it out as well!


April 26, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How Does Your Neighborhood Rate for "Aging in Place?" AARP Offers Livability Index

As outlined by The Washington Post, AARP Public Policy Institute has a new "Livability Index" offered as a way to evaluate factors such as safety, security, ease of getting around, access to health care, and housing affordability.

More intangible factors are also assessed, such as WiFi, farmers' markets and "public policies that promote successful aging."

(After following the trauma of the trial in Iowa, I wonder whether "criminal laws on sexual relations between husband and wives if one has dementia" should be added as an express factor?)

For more, read here and here.  Hat Tip to ElderLawGuy Jeffrey Marshall for the pointer. 

April 23, 2015 in Consumer Information, Housing, Retirement, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Living Longer and the Effect on Pensions

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College released their April Brief on How Will Longer Lifespans Affect State and Local Pension Funding? The authors considered whether state and local governments are factoring in the increase in longevity into their budgeting for employee pensions. The authors use two alternatives to explore the answer: "1) if public plans were required to use the new mortality table designed for private sector plans; and 2) if public plans were required to go one step further and fully incorporate expected future mortality improvements." The article first discusses the current climate for these pensions, discusses a scenario illustrating longevity's impact on pensions and then covers the two options. 

The authors' conclusion might surprise you.  "The question underlying this analysis is whether outdated mortality assumptions are a serious problem among state and local plans. The answer appears to be "no."...  In short, public sector plans seem to be making a serious effort to keep their life expectancy assumptions up to date."  The brief also has an appendix with a table showing the "life expectancy and funded ratio" for various state and local government pension plans.


April 22, 2015 in Current Affairs, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)