Sunday, November 10, 2019
Everyone agrees that we need a stronger national commitment to "retirement security" in America. But what, exactly does that mean? This topic will be a central focus for discussion during a Public Forum hosted at Penn State's Dickinson Law on Tuesday, November 12, 2019. The keynote speaker is former Maryland Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who is currently the Director of Retirement Security at the Economic Policy Institute, as well as serving as a research professor at Georgetown University.
Along those very lines, last week I read a news article about the latest stalemate at the federal level on specific legislation that could promote better retirement savings. The measure in question is H.R. 1994, the "Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement" Act -- and of course that name was chosen to reinforce the goal of SECURE futures. The bill passed the House with strong, bipartisan backing in May 2019, but is now mired in the Senate. Excerpts from The Hill describe the roadblocks to passage:
GOP senators on Thursday attempted to bring a House-passed retirement savings bill to the Senate floor with votes on a limited number of amendments, but the effort was rejected by Democrats.
The Republican effort and Democrats' rejection highlighted how, despite widespread bipartisan support and backing from industry groups, it is still unclear when the retirement bill will be enacted.
The House in May in a nearly unanimous vote approved the bill, known as the SECURE Act. The bill includes a host of provisions aimed at making it easier for businesses to offer retirement plans and for people to save for retirement. It also reverses a provision in the 2017 Republican tax-cut law that inadvertently raised taxes on military survivor benefits paid to children....
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) objected to the Republican request, saying that Senate Democrats want the chamber to pass the House-passed bill as-is, without any amendments.
“We have a few Republican senators who want to sidetrack it with last-minute amendments, including proposals that are not in the interest of working families and will kill any chance this bill has of becoming law,” she said.
Murray asked Toomey to modify his request in order to allow the bill to pass as-is, but Toomey said he wouldn’t modify his request.
For another perspective, see "What is the SECURE Act? How Could It Affect Your Future?"
Monday, October 14, 2019
MarketWatch published an article last week on the amount of money you need to have for your retirement, If you want to have enough money when you retire, you need to know this. "Calculating future savings requires numerous factors, including current age and predicted retirement age, any current assets, how the portfolio is invested and at what rate a person can realistically expect that money to grow. The latter, known as a “rate of return,” includes inflation, interest and dividend payments, and many experts disagree on what individuals can anticipate that rate to be." There are various views regarding the percentages needed for the rate of return and there are a couple of ways to reference it, the article explains.
As with most other facets of retirement planning, an assumed rate of return can be different from one person to the next, said [one advisor]... The reality is that it is almost entirely dependent upon your own personal allocation....” Many advisers also have their own way of creating projections, and will show clients a few estimates — from conservative to aggressive — when making a financial plan. “There is no one perfect number to use....”
Still, investors may want to err on the conservative side, as it’s better to save too much than end up in retirement with too little.... And investors, especially younger ones, should not be chasing returns.
Bottom line, you need to start saving (the earlier the better) for your retirement if you plan to retire
Sunday, September 8, 2019
With Dorian finally moving on, I thought it would be good for all of us to post something that was happy. So Kiplinger ran an article, 10 of the Happiest Places to Retire in the U.S. According to the article, these "10 retirement destinations rank the highest in terms of the overall well-being of residents." These are Charlottesville, VA; Ann Arbor, MI: Portland, ME;Carlsbad, CA; Durham-Chapel Hill, NC; Cape Coral, FL; Richland, WA;; Provo, UT; Charleston, S.C.; and Burlington, VT. Not having lived in these, I can't comment on if they are happy places to live.
To come up with the rankings, Kiplinger relied on the "Well-Being index" which the article explains " is based specifically on residents' feelings about five elements of well-being: "purpose" (liking what you do and being motivated to achieve goals), "social" (having supportive relationships and love), "financial" (managing your budget to feel secure), "community" (liking where you live) and "physical" (being in good health). " Using this index, then Kiplinger "factored in the "community" and "physical" components of the Well-Being Index, where available, as well as living costs, safety, median incomes and poverty rates for retirement-age residents and the availability of recreational and health care facilities."
The article is available here.
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
My colleague and dear friend Professor Bauer, sent me the link to a recent op-ed in the New York Times, How Not to Grow Old in America.The assisted living industry is booming, by tapping into the fantasy that we can all be self-sufficient until we die.
Assisted living seems like the solution to everyone’s worries about old age. It’s built on the dream that we can grow old while being self-reliant and live that way until we die. That all you need is a tiny bit of help. That you would never want to be warehoused in a nursing home with round-the-clock caregivers. This is a powerful concept in a country built on independence and self-reliance.
The problem is that for most of us, it’s a lie. And we are all complicit in keeping this dream alive.
The author notes that the ALF industry has a financial incentive to market their product and it's appealing to the kids of those who reside in ALFs. The author writes, "[t]he irony of assisted living is, it’s great if you don’t need too much assistance. If you don’t, the social life, the spalike facilities, the myriad activities and the extensive menus might make assisted living the right choice. But if you have trouble walking or using the bathroom, or have dementia and sometimes wander off, assisting living facilities aren’t the answer, no matter how desperately we wish they were." Further, the author offers data that most of these residents need more care than that provided and argues in favor of regulation, using several actual cases as illustrations to support the call for regulation.
We need to let go of the ideal of being self-sufficient until death. Just as we don’t demand that our toddlers be self-reliant, Americans need to allow the reality of ourselves as dependent in our old age to percolate into our psyches and our nation’s social policies. Unless we face up to the reality of the needs of our aging population, the longevity we as a society have gained is going to be lived out miserably.
September 4, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Other, Retirement, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)
Wednesday, August 7, 2019
The New York Times recently ran an article, 7 of Your Most Burning Questions on Social Security (With Answers).
The questions include the future of Social Security, spousal and survivors benefits, the length of benefits, delayed retirement vs. "break even" claiming, the lowered amount of benefits for those who temporarily leave the work force for caregiving, taxing benefits, and self-employment.
These are all really good questions (I hope they do another article, cause we all know there are more than 7 burning questions.) The answers are clear and to the point. I plan to have my students read the article before we cover the topic this fall semester (which will be starting before we know it!) You should read it, too!
Thursday, July 18, 2019
The Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) has announced a webinar on July 24, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. edt. on Spending Patterns of Older Households and Their Financial Planning Implications.
Here's a description of the webinar:
Please join EBRI for a webinar reviewing findings from its latest research on spending behavior of older Americans. EBRI researcher Zahra Ebrahimi will examine how spending varies by retirement status, wealth, and demographic characteristics. We will then hear from Sharon Carson, Retirement Strategist, Executive Director at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, to understand the implications of these findings in assessing retirement income adequacy for financial planning purposes.
To register for the webinar, click here.
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
Do you plan to retire? If you answer is no, you aren't alone. According to a recent poll in the Associated Press, almost 25% of folks plan to keep work. Poll: 1 in 4 don’t plan to retire despite realities of aging found a possible "disconnection between individuals’ retirement plans and the realities of aging in the workforce." The realities of life ... and aging... "often force older workers to leave their jobs sooner than they’d like." The article notes things like caregiving and health as reasons that cause folks to leave employment. In addition to this nearly 25% who plan to keep working, which "[includes] nearly 2 in 10 of those over 50.... [r]oughly another quarter of Americans say they will continue working beyond their 65th birthday."
The article contains data regarding the impetus to keep working (including financial needs) and the perceptions among those in the workforce regarding the continued employment of older workers:
39% think people staying in the workforce longer is mostly a good thing for American workers, while 29% think it’s more a bad thing and 30% say it makes no difference.
A somewhat higher share, 45%, thinks it has a positive effect on the U.S. economy.
Working Americans who are 50 and older think the trend is more positive than negative for their own careers — 42% to 15%. Those younger than 50 are about as likely to say it’s good for their careers as to say it’s bad.
However, desire and reality aren't always a match. The article also discusses reasons why folks who want to keep working have to leave the workforce.
Thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn for sending me the link to the story.
Thursday, June 6, 2019
One piece of good news from Alabama that caught my eye was the passage of a new law regarding pensions and Special Needs Trusts. Here is the press release from the firm of one of the attorneys integrally involved in this legislative effort:
A new act has been passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed into law by the Governor that will allow participants in the Retirement Systems of Alabama (“RSA”) pension plan to direct proceeds to pass to a special needs trust for a beneficiary with a disability who receives government benefits. Sirote & Permutt shareholder, Katherine N. Barr, a member of the firm’s Private Clients Trusts and Estates Group, recognized the need for this important statutory change when doing estate planning for RSA employees and retirees who wanted to leave their RSA pensions to children with disabilities receiving SSI and Medicaid. The RSA provisions required the pension payment to be paid directly to the child, which caused a loss of these critical government benefits in most cases. With input from RSA, Ms. Barr prepared legislation to correct this problem. State Senator Cam Ward from Alabaster, Alabama introduced the legislation as SB 57 this session and State Representative Matt Fridy from Montevallo, Alabama introduced to it the House. Both the House and Senate passed it unanimously. Governor Ivey signed the legislation on May 22, 2019. The Act covers all RSA retirement plan participants and will become effective August 1, 2019. Ms. Barr states that it took more than three years to obtain this result. This legislation will benefit individuals with disabilities for years to come by allowing them to receive the pension payments in a manner that will not affect their Medicaid and SSI payments. The pension can now be directed to a certain type of special needs trust upon the death of the plan participant. The trust can be set up in advance or following the participant’s death. The Alabama Family Trust can be designated to receive the benefit, as can a private trust.
Well done Katherine!
Monday, June 3, 2019
The GAO recently released a study examining the financial implications to caregivers. Retirement Security: Some Parental and Spousal Caregivers Face Financial Risks explains
[a]bout 10% of Americans per year cared for an elderly parent or spouse from 2011 through 2017. These family caregivers may risk their long-term financial security if they have to work less or pay for caregiving expenses such as travel or medicine.
More than half of people who cared for parents or spouses said they went to work late, left early, or took time off for care
Spousal caregivers at or near retirement age had less in retirement assets or Social Security income than non-caregivers
Experts and studies identified ways to potentially improve caregivers' retirement security, such as increasing their Social Security benefits
Some caregivers experienced adverse effects on their jobs and had less in retirement assets and income.
- According to data from a 2015 caregiving-specific study, an estimated 68 percent of working parental and spousal caregivers experienced job impacts, such as going to work late, leaving early, or taking time off during the day to provide care. Spousal caregivers were more likely to experience job impacts than parental caregivers (81 percent compared to 65 percent, respectively).
- According to 2002 to 2014 data from the Health and Retirement Study, spousal caregivers ages 59 to 66 had lower levels of retirement assets and less income than married non-caregivers of the same ages. Specifically, spousal caregivers had an estimated 50 percent less in individual retirement account (IRA) assets, 39 percent less in non-IRA assets, and 11 percent less in Social Security income. However, caregiving may not be the cause of these results as there are challenges to isolating the effect of caregiving from other factors that could affect retirement assets and income.
Thursday, May 2, 2019
If you answered yes to the title question, you are not along. Last month, Financial Advisor published an article, More Than Half Of Americans Want To Live To 100 reporting on a survey by AIG Life & Retirement. Why does someone want to live to be 100? Why not? There are various reasons, and the respondents offered these: "Thirty-nine percent of respondents cited deeper family relationships as the main reason for wanting to live 100 years. Another 32 percent said they wanted to see the world change, and 17 percent wanted to remain productive."
The respondents note that longevity can be accompanied by various issues. "Of the 53 percent whose goal is to be a centenarian, 51 percent are worried that their savings won't last for that long a life." As well, the likelihood of significant health issues took first place among concerns "(35 percent) ... followed by the likelihood of burdening their family (27 percent) and running out of the money needed to live comfortably in retirement (25 percent)." Planning for longevity is important. Although aging happens organically, planning for longevity is responsible aging.
Thursday, April 4, 2019
The GAO published a new report examining the experiences of other countries with phased retirement of workers. Older Workers: Other Countries' Experiences with Phased Retirement reports on "17 countries with aging populations and national pension systems similar to the Social Security program in the United States. These countries also have arrangements that allow workers to reduce their working hours as they transition into retirement, referred to as 'phased retirement.'"
GAO's four case study countries—Canada, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (UK)—were described as employing various strategies at the national level to encourage phased retirement, and specific programs differed with respect to design specifics and sources of supplemental income for participants. Canada and the U.K. were described as having national policies that make it easier for workers to reduce their hours and receive a portion of their pension benefits from employer-sponsored pension plans while continuing to accrue pension benefits in the same plan. Experts described two national programs available to employers and workers in Germany, with one program using tax preferences. Experts also said Sweden implemented a policy in 2010 that allows partial retirement and access to partial pension benefits to encourage workers to stay in the labor force longer.
Even with unique considerations in the United States, other countries' experiences with phased retirement could inform U.S. efforts. Some employer-specific conditions, such as employers offering employee-directed retirement plans and not being covered by collective bargaining are more common in the United States, but the case study countries included examples of designs for phased retirement programs in such settings. Certain programs allow access to employer-sponsored or national pension benefits while working part-time. For example, experts said the U.K. allows workers to draw a portion of their account based pension tax-free, and one U.K. employer GAO spoke to also allows concurrent contributions to those plans. In addition, experts said that certain program design elements help determine the success of some programs. Such elements could inform the United States experience. For instance, U.S. employers told us that while offering phased retirement to specific groups of workers may be challenging because of employment discrimination laws, a union representative in Germany noted that they reached an agreement where employers may set restrictions or caps on participation, such as 3 percent of the workforce, to manage the number of workers in the program. Employers in the U.S. could explore whether using a similar approach, taking into consideration any legal concerns or other practical challenges, could help them to control the number of workers participating in phased retirement programs.
Thursday, March 28, 2019
The GAO has issued a new report, Retirement Security: Most Households Approaching Retirement Have Low Savings, an Update. The report, an update from the 2015 report, is 4 pages long and available here as a pdf. The update incorporates "estimates on the percentage of households aged 55 and over with selected financial resources." Here are the fast facts from this update
The 2015 report on retirement security included estimates on the percentage of households aged 55 and over without retirement savings or a defined benefit plan (traditional employment-based pension plans that offer benefits based on factors like salary and years of service)... We updated these estimates using data from the most recent Survey of Consumer Finances, which was released in September 2017... We found that the percent of households headed by someone aged 55 and over that had no retirement savings decreased from about 52 percent in 2013 to about 48 percent in 2016.
Monday, January 7, 2019
According to AARP, employee benefits most valued by Boomers are Health Insurance, Retirement Benefits Most Attractive to Boomer Workers
Boomer workers tend to place great importance on health insurance benefits and 401(k) matching contributions from their employers, according to a newly released Harris poll of 2,026 U.S. adults.
Gen Xers and younger adults also value these benefits but are somewhat more inclined than boomers to put a priority on paid time off and flexible work schedules, according to the poll, conducted for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
The statistics in the article are interesting. For example, as far as what employee benefits are important: for the Boomers, 71% said health insurance and 67% said 401(k), 54% pensions while the millennials and Xers placed less importance on pensions, 16% and 34% respectively. Millennials placed more importance on workplace flexibility compared to Boomers. How long do the Boomers surveyed intend to continue working? According to the article, 22% may retire within a year, 22% are considering cutting back on the amount they work and 13% are looking at a job change with only 14% likely to work more.
I was chatting recently with Bill Johnston-Walsh, director of Pennsylvania's chapter of AARP. I always enjoy catching up with Bill, as he gets involved in cutting edge issues and projects under development.
One of the hot topics he relayed to me are programs at the state level to support better on-the-job savings for retirement. Almost gone are the days of defined benefit retirement plans and employers may not offer defined contribution plans either. States are beginning to adopt laws that make it possible for employers to offer alternative, low-cost, voluntary approaches for employees, sometimes known as "Work & Save" programs, such as "OregonSaves." Here's a summary from an AARP report in July 2018:
Oregon was the first-in-the-nation to launch this innovative solution with OregonSaves in 2017, and as of July 2018 they already have over 58,000 workers enrolled and nearly $4.6 million saved. Of those eligible at this time, 73% have enrolled, and participants are saving $46.42 per paycheck on average. Check out how OregonSaves is helping workers save here.
Elsewhere, this year, Washington opened the first ever marketplace version of Work & Save, Washington’s Retirement Marketplace, and Illinois started a pilot of their Work & Save program, Illinois Secure Choice, with their official launch coming this fall.
These states are not alone – across the nation, states are recognizing the need to help all workers grow savings so they can take control of their futures and deal with the rising cost of health care and living expenses. In the past 6 years, 40 states have acted to implement, study or consider legislation to create Work & Save programs.
Convenience and portability for the employees seem to be two key components of the new approaches.
Thursday, January 3, 2019
As elderlaw profs, it's likely that we cover Medicare in our courses every semester. Whether you teach the subject or your are a beneficiary, how well do you know Medicare coverage basics? Kiplinger offers a short quiz on Medicare that allows you to test your Medicare IQ. The quiz, Does Medicare Cover That? is easy to complete and each question includes an explanation accompanying the answer. And once you have finished this quiz, take the next one, True or False: Test Yourself on Social Security Claiming Strategies.
Check them out!
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
The more I work in the field of elder law, and teach classes, the more I am convinced that enterprises who market to families and seniors fail to realize greater transparency can help their commercial products and enterprises succeed.
Thus, it is useful to read a New York Times' column on annuities, one that appears to be the first of a series. The author, Ron Lieber, begins his column on The Simplest Annuity Explainer We Could Write:
Annuities can be complicated. This column will not be.
After I wrote two weeks ago about getting tossed out of the office of an annuity salesman, there was a surprising clamor for more information about this room-clearing topic. One group of readers just wanted a basic explainer on how annuities work. For that, read on.
Another group of readers worried that those hearing of my experience might assume that all annuities are bad, and that all people who sell them use subterfuge to do so. Neither of those is true: Next week, I’ll introduce you to some reasonable people who are trying to use certain annuities in new and improved ways.
My thanks to Dickinson Law colleague Laurel Terry for the heads up!
Monday, October 22, 2018
CNBC recently highlighted comparative inflation numbers on assisted living costs and other benchmarks that probably won't help you sleep better tonight:
This retirement living expense has nowhere to go but up.
The annual cost of a private room in a nursing home has cracked the six-figure mark, according to Genworth Financial.
The national annual median cost of a private room in a nursing home is $100,375, the insurer found in its 2018 Cost of Care study.
Overall, the rising cost of care has outpaced inflation. The Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers was 2.1 percent for the first half of 2018. The annual median cost of a room at an assisted living facility grew by 6.67 percent between 2017 and 2018. Meanwhile, the cost of a shared room in a nursing home jumped by 4.11 percent.
Thursday, October 18, 2018
The Pennsylvania Legislature did not reach either SB 884, involving major changes in adult guardianship laws, or HB 2291, that would have blocked state authority to investigate complaints about the scope of services provided in senior public housing or independent living units in continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), before adjourning to permit legislators to return to their districts for the final push before the November 2018 elections. It is unlikely that either bill will receive further consideration this session. New legislation would need to be introduced in the next legislative session, for fresh consideration in 2019.
One bill that did pass both Houses on October 18 in the waning hours of the 2017-18 session is HB 2133, Printer's No. 3107 to establish a Kinship Caregiver Navigator Program within the PA Department of Human Services as "a resource for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren" outside of the formal child welfare system. The online navigator program is to be created by an outside contractor. The fiscal note attached to the bill projects an estimated cost of about $2.2 million, with about half of the funds coming from federal sources.
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Social Security has released the 2019 numbers. Social Security Announces 2.8 Percent Benefit Increase for 2019 notes a 2.8% COLA and an increase in the SSA taxable maximum amount to $132,900. The indivdiual's amount for SSI for 2019 will increase to $771 per month. The detailed fact sheet is available here.
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Pennsylvania's Legislature Stalls Guardianship Reform But Moves Forward on Controversial "Protection" Bill
As recent readers of the Elder Law Prof Blog will know, the Pennsylvania legislature is in the waning days of the 2018 legislative year. Despite strong support for basic reforms of adult guardianship laws, the legislature has once again stalled action on Senator Greenleaf's guardianship reform package, Senate Bill 884. Apparently the latest delay arose when one senator objected to a provision requiring criminal background checks for proposed new guardians, because of his own experiences as a guardian for an adult child.
Guardianship reform has been on the legislative docket since at least 2014 when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Elder Law Task Force issued its comprehensive report recommending much needed changes, including higher standards for appointed guardians. But this one senator's late-breaking concerns triggered another delay. Similar legislation was approved by the Senate in the previous legislative term, only to be stalled that time in the House.
Thus, the contrast with another bill affecting seniors, one that is rushing through the Pennsylvania Legislature in 6 months, is particularly dramatic. House Bill 2291, as most recently amended in Printer's Version No. 3917, was introduced for the first time in April 2018 and cleared the Pennsylvania House with a unanimous vote on October 9, 2018.
The bill has been cast as "protection" of seniors against unwanted intrusions on their privacy by government investigators. Sounds like a commendable purpose. But the much larger purpose seems to be about protecting "providers" of certain types of housing for seniors, including "independent living units" in continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs, also called Life Plan Communities) and publically-funded "senior multifamily housing units," from investigation by Pennsylvania authorities where there are potential concerns about suitability of that type of unit for the needs of particular seniors, especially those at risk of self-neglect or third-party exploitation because of dementia. One member of the House, a legislator from Westmoreland County where a CCRC has been investigated (apparently the only such investigation in the state), has been quite successful in attracting support for his bill to prevent such investigations from happening in the future.
Now the Pennsylvania Senate will have all of three days -- its last three working days in 2018 -- to consider HB 2291 for the first time.
Has HB 2291 been carefully considered by all the stakeholders, including seniors and their families? It may not matter when the train is running at full steam.
October 10, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)