Monday, May 9, 2022

Pandemic Retirees Unretiring?

The Washington Post recently published Millions retired early during the pandemic. Many are now returning to work, new data shows. Although a significant number of folks retired early, 

An estimated 1.5 million retirees have reentered the U.S. labor market over the past year, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by ... an economist.... That means the economy has made up most of the extra losses of retirees since February 2020, a Washington Post analysis shows.

Many retirees are being pulled back to jobs by a combination of diminishing covid concerns and more flexible work arrangements at a time when employers are desperate for workers. In some cases, workers say rising costs — and the inability to keep up while on a fixed income — are factoring heavily into their decisions as well.

But those reentering the work force are not just those who retired during the pandemic. 

The percentage of retirees returning to work has picked up momentum in recent months, hitting a pandemic high of 3.2 percent in March, according to Indeed. In interviews with nearly a dozen workers who recently “un-retired," many said they felt comfortable returning to work now that they’ve gotten the coronavirus vaccine and booster shots. Almost all said they’d taken on jobs that were more accommodating of their needs, whether that meant being able to work remotely, travel less or set their own hours.

The article provides a number of interesting examples of individuals who are "unretiring" and why they chose to do so.

May 9, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Other, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Residents Are Asking a Lot of Questions -- Tough Questions -- about CCRCs

It is Sunday, and I'm looking at a long list of things to do next week, with grading exams at the top of my list.  Significantly, however, in the last six to eight months, at increasing rates, I'm hearing from current and prospective residents of Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs, also sometimes called Life Plan Communities).  Here are examples of some of the most often asked questions:

  • "The company that runs my CCRC is about to engage in development of a new CCRC.  Is the money I've already paid in the form of an admission fee, or the money I continue to pay as monthly service fees, going to support this new development?"
  • "During the lock-down associated with protecting residents and the public from COVID-19, we were asked to give up services that were the very reason we choose this community.  But now that we are no longer locked down, the services either are not returning or the fees we are charged are actually increasing.  Is there some effective way to object to this disconnect between the promises and the delivery of services?"
  • "My parents are thinking about moving into a CCRC.  On the one hand, I like the idea of the active community they are choosing.  But on the other hand, the amount they are expected to pay in the form of an admission fee is astounding.  Why are some communities calling this a refundable fee and others are saying it isn't a refundable fee? What are the protections for the 'refundable' fee?"
  • "We have just learned that our nonprofit CCRC is being transferred to a for-profit company as the owner-operator.  How is this likely to impact my wife and I as residents?"

Answers to many of these questions depend on the state's laws governing this form of senior living operation and, even more, on the particular contracts between the resident and the provider.  State regulators have concerns here too.  For those looking for legal assistance in their particular community, I sometimes recommend looking for attorneys in the caller's home state, someone who understands CCRCs from a resident perspective. I first wrote about the need for attorneys who understand resident perspectives in 2006.  

Sometimes "elder law" attorneys have this expertise, but not always.  Plus, it can be important to consult with an attorney who understands consumer protection laws, and not "just" CCRC law.  Finally, if litigation is actually on the horizon, the choice for legal advice can depend on whether the attorneys have expertise in litigation or dispute resolution and not "just" contract law. 

So, all of this is a short way of saying that even though, as an legal academic,  I often write about the importance of resident rights in CCRCs, and even though I believe the future of CCRCs is very much tied to the answers, I'm not in a position to respond to individual questions. The very fact that I'm writing this Blog Post is a potential indication that something important could be going on in the industry.  Perhaps that "something" should be addressed by the industry itself, especially if it wants the CCRC concept not just to survive, but thrive.  In my opinion, it is not enough for the industry to say that "every CCRC is different."  

May 8, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

RFP: Washington State Seeks Expert Consultation to Develop CCRC Regulations with Heightened Consumer Protections

I'm always interested when I start getting lots of calls or emails about a certain topic in aging.  Today I was hearing from a lot of people wanting to talk about Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs, sometimes also called Life Plan Communities or LPCs). It is safe to say that all forms of senior living operations are facing new challenges after being hit hard by the lockdowns and staffing problems of the last two years with COVID-19.

But one of the most interesting set of calls was from the State of Washington, where residents have been using their time together during COVID to think carefully about the need for certain key protections for consumers who put their money and trust into CCRCs.  The Washington Continuing Care Residents Association (WACCRA) has worked carefully, calmly and diligently to reach the ears of legislators and regulators in the state.  I had the pleasure of hearing from  members and residents of CCRCs in Washington last October and speaking at their annual meeting.  WACCRA Annual Meeting in Seattle  October 2022 (2)

Today, I heard that the  Office of Insurance Commissioner in Washington has initiated a Request for Proposals for a time-sensitive research project:

This project is designed to assess federal and state authorities regulating continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) and provide a report with recommendations on creating a legal framework for shared regulatory oversight of CCRC products under Chapter 18.390 RCW, which may achieve heightened consumer protections.

Interested researchers -- with background in regulatory systems for CCRCS -- should act quickly as the deadline for submissions is May 23, 2022.   

Click HERE FOR THE FULL DETAILS!  

May 3, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Grant Deadlines/Awards, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, April 29, 2022

Working Longer Means Fewer Years of Healthy Retirement?

Earlier this month, Forbes  ran this article, American Elders Are Short-Changed 5 Years Of Healthy Retirement,  which explains that

America’s elders die sooner and are sicker than their counterparts in other rich nations. American elders also must work longer than their cohort abroad. These trends mean that Americans get fewer years of healthy retirement life than elders in comparable wealthy nations—five years less, in fact.

One reason for this big gap in healthy retirement is the pressure for American elders to work longer. Among major rich nations, Americans work longer than anyone except the Japanese, who retire at age 67.9 while Americans work until age 65 on average; but the Japanese live longer, so experience more healthy retirement time.

Consider this from the author: "It's sad to know that America’s de facto plan for retirement is working longer and dying sooner. This inequality of retirement time is caused by the crossing of two swords: the growing inequality of retirement wealth and the growing inequality of longevity. These inequities are deeply connected. If people who die younger could retire earlier than those with longer and healthier lives, retirement time could at least be distributed more equally."

The full article discussing life expectancy in the U.S. and abroad, as well as work histories, is available here.

April 29, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Other, Retirement, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 22, 2022

Smart Home Tech Makes Aging in Place Easier

The Washington Post recently published this article, Aging in place can be so much easier with smart home technology. "Supporting health, safety and security are important components of successfully aging in place. So are home management systems that maintain a comfortable environment, and communication and recreation systems that enable social engagement, stimulation and entertainment."  As the article notes, the type and amount of tech is vast, ranging from pretty simple types that do just a little, to more comprehensive setups that integrate into much of every day life.  The article focuses on two couples who added tech to their homes.  It also looks at the pros and cons, as well as advances and includes a list of recommendations.  The article also mentions concerns about privacy and how to mitigate that. I would also add the topic of consent, when family want to install the tech in the home of the elder.  Lots of good info in the article.

April 22, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Retirement, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Reverse Mortgage May Not Be A Last Resort Any Longer

Professor Naomi Cahn sent me the link to this recent article in the New York Times, Reverse Mortgages Are No Longer Just for Homeowners Short on Cash. "Until recently, it was conventional wisdom that a reverse mortgage was a last-resort option for the oldest homeowners who desperately needed cash. But a growing number of researchers say these loans could be a good option for people earlier in their retirement like [those]  who are not needy at all."

The article offers the basics about reverse mortgages and offers some insights into the thinking about greater utility of reverse mortgages:

Homeowners in their 60s and early 70s could use cash from a reverse mortgage to protect investment portfolios during market downturns, to delay claiming Social Security benefits or to pay large medical bills.

“The best use of this tool is to provide and supplement income during retirement,” said ... the director of the financial planning program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. “A younger retiree can stay in the house while turning equity into an income stream.” 

The article discusses downsides for folks to consider as well.  Read it!

 

 

April 17, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Housing, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Reconsidering the Implications of Togetherness As Couples Get Older

I have a fondness for California Rock & Roll from a certain era -- also known as my youth.  One of my favorites, Warren Zevon, is probably mostly remembered as a singer/songwriter, and he penned some great songs such as Hasten Down the Wind (performed by another favorite, Linda Ronstadt, who, like me was born next door to California in Arizona).  Some of his lyrics work equally well as poetry.  Right now I'm thinking to the opening lines to Reconsider Me, recorded and released by Zevon in 1987:   

If you're all alone

And you need someone

Call me up

And I'll come running

Reconsider me

Reconsider me

Those lines seem to echo in an article from the New York Times today, describing a trend among older singles -- they are willing to love again, but at least one half of the couple isn't willing to live together.  The article begins by describing a 78 year-old widow's friendship with a a widowed man that was turning romantic.   He wanted them to move into together.  She wasn't eager and she admits that his health woes were part of the concern.  She is quoted as saying "He was not in great shape."  Eventually, when he had surgery and needed recuperative care, she followed his directions and "using his funds, hired a live-in caregiver for him."  Once he recovered, they spent more time together.  

The NYT writer, Francine Russo, observes:

With greater longevity, the doubling of the divorce rate since the 1990s for people over 50 and evolving social norms, older people like Ms. Randall are increasingly re-partnering in various forms.  Cohabitation, for example, is more often replacing remarriage following divorce or widowhood, said Susan L. Brown, a sociologist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

 

These older adults are seeking (and finding) love, emotional support and an antidote to loneliness.  But many older women, in particular, fear that a romantic attachment in later life will shortly lead to full-time caregiving.

The New York Times article also echoes topics addressed in the article I linked to last week by Cahn, Huntingdon and Scott, Family Law for the One-Hundred Year Life.  For more from the Times, if you have a subscription, see Older Singles Have Found a New Wat to Partner Up:  Living Apart.  

 

 

March 2, 2022 in Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Steps to Take When Moving Into Retirement

I found helpful this recent New York Times article, When You’re Tiptoeing Into Retirement, Take These Key Steps. I thought the setup to the article was spot-on "For many, getting to retirement age is not a simple matter of giving two weeks’ notice. You may want to extend a career or wind down work life or a business. If you’re able, you may want to keep working until you are 70 (and beyond), when you will receive the largest possible Social Security payment. These in-betweeners are slow-walk planning to arrive at the moment when they are not working anymore. What’s involved is a delicate jigsaw puzzle of decisions, nest egg bolstering and financial calculations. This transitory time also presents a meaningful time for reflection and short-term planning."  The article discusses "issues to consider' including the timing of taking Social Security Retirement (and some links to companies you can hire to help you with the decision), phased retirement, financing retirement, including tax planning, and whether to create a plan yourself, or with a professional. "More important, one of your key questions should be, “What do I truly want to do and how do I get there?” Whether you are envisioning partial or full retirement, it helps to have some specific goals."

February 24, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Help in Choosing When to Claim Social Security Benefits

If you ever perused the Social Security website, you know there are a number of choices to make. Although SSA has a lot of info on its website, ever wish you could get some help? That's the subject of a recent article in the New York Times, To Get the Most From Social Security, Log On. "[T]he market for Social Security advice includes a variety of software tools that can analyze your circumstances and retirement income needs, and generate recommendations for getting the most out of benefits. A growing number of financial planners use software to advise clients on claiming, and some workplace retirement plans also offer such options."  The article mentions some of the more complex decisions that need to be made by individual beneficiaries, review some fee for use tools as well as free tools.  Check it out!

Thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn for sending me the link.

February 1, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

What Do We Mean by Care? Heather McGhee Interviews Ai-Jen Poo

The New York Times is a host for The Ezra Klein Show, a podcast (and short written commentary) with episodes that generally appear on Tuesdays and Fridays each week. Ezra Klein is on paternity leave right now, and in his absence, Heather McGhee, author of The Sum of Us, interviewed Ai-jen Poo, MacArthur grant winner and author of The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America.  The discussion is timely.

Interestingly, the title assigned by the NYT to this podcast is "Every 8 Seconds, an American Turns 65.  How Do We Care for Everyone?"  

Use of that statistic seems to be intended to shock, or at least, to cause a nervous, worried reaction.  Yet the "8 Second" rate is also used for new births in the U.S.  At the outset of the interesting interview, Heather asks Ai-jen for a definition of "care."  Ai-jen responds in her usual fashion -- thoughtfully and carefully -- and says, in essence, "Care is the most fundamental form of support we offer others.  We both offer and rely on care; care is essential." She adds, however, that for most families, private care is unaffordable, whether the need is for child care, disabled family member care, or elder care.

I wonder why it is that we so often ask whether "we can afford" the care of older adults?  That implies the public form of "we." Yes, too often the response (if not the answer)  is "no," but I tend to think that one of the reasons for that fact is that we continue to think that we, as individuals, have some "right" to stay in our homes no matter how long we live, and no matter how much this becomes impossible to manage.  Is it just "too" hard as individuals to plan for alternatives? I think the answer is "yes," but if we aren't going to plan as individuals, it seems likely that the costs will always be treated as unaffordable by "the public."

December 7, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 3, 2021

Are Luxury Senior Homes Worth the Price?

The New York Times recently published an article about the market for and appeal of luxury senior homes, in Growing Old in High Style. The article features several high-end senior housing complexes.

There are

several luxury assisted-living homes that have sprung up in the last few years, especially in places like New York City with its many affluent retirees with upmarket tastes and cosmopolitan demands. .... These upscale retirement homes cater to the affluent end of the “the silver tsunami” — the coming wave of aging baby boomers who are still socially and culturally active, and who have become accustomed to a certain quality of life.

The vibe at these places is less dreary nursing home and more five-star wellness resort. 

The article notes the high cost of this type of housing, especially compared to ALFs.  One expert described these high-end housing options as "promoting “the idea of affinity rather than exclusivity” — that is, to live among like-minded people. And in cities like New York, the high cost of living and urban setting means that there is a large pool of highly educated, financially successful and culturally curious retirees who are seeking similar company."  The article discusses amenities, describing the services provided as giving the feel of luxury rather than an institution.

December 3, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 2, 2021

A New Map of Life

The Stanford Center on Longevity has released a new report, The New Map of Life. Looking at the 100 year life,  "make a clear distinction between aging, the biological process, and longevity, the measure
of long life. The Center’s goal is not to advocate for longer life—a phenomenon that is well underway—rather, it is to identify ways to enhance the quality of those century-long lives, so that people experience a sense of belonging, purpose, and worth at all ages and stages." One focus is looking forward, "on the economic potential of a more age-diverse population in which older adults contribute in increasingly significant and measurable ways to the social good and to GDP, so that opportunities for healthy longevity are shared across races, geographical regions, and socioeconomic status." (citations omitted).

The report addresses the following: Age diversity is a net positive, investment in centenarians to gain big returns, realignment of health spans to life spans, be amazed by the future of aging, work to an older age courtesy of flexibility in working, lifelong learning, invest in longevity communities, and look at life transitions as a positive.  In preparing to take this new road on the new map of life, the authors note that "[m]eeting the challenges of longevity is not the sole responsibility of government, employers, healthcare providers, or insurance companies; it is an all-hands, all-sector undertaking, requiring the best ideas from the private sector, government, medicine, academia, and philanthropy."

Be sure to read this report!

December 2, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Other, Retirement, Science, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Great Resignation Doesn't Mean More on Social Security

A few weeks ago, the Washington Post ran this article, The latest twist in the ‘Great Resignation’: Retiring but delaying Social Security

For better-off Americans, the pandemic economy created some of the strongest incentives to retire in modern history, with generous federal stimulus, incredible market gains, skyrocketing home values and health concerns drawing many Americans into early retirement.

The surprising twist? Many of these retirees also opted to put off claiming Social Security benefits, an exclusive Washington Post analysis shows. By delaying their benefits, these retirees can expect to collect higher monthly checks in the future.
The data in the article show retirements up about 5% but Social Security Retirement apps down about the same for the same time period.  Do we know what is going on?
 
America’s retiree population grew by about 3 million during the pandemic, about double what would have been expected given pre-pandemic trends, which has been previously reported. But the surprising surge in older Americans delaying Social Security upon retirement is another example of a number of unusual trends roiling the American labor market. Most notably, workers of all ages are quitting jobs in record numbers, in what has been dubbed the “Great Resignation.”
But why is this happening? Perhaps it's the "generous federal stimulus and unemployment insurance payments that enabled retirees to make ends meet in the short term; soaring stock and home prices that fattened retirement accounts; and pandemic-related restrictions at Social Security field offices nationwide that forced seniors to apply online."  We know that the pandemic is a great risk to all of us, but older workers can be even more vulnerable.  Once we are out of the pandemic, it will be interesting to see if this trend continues or reverses.

November 18, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Will the 2022 SSA COLA be "record-breaking"?

I don't know if it will be "record-breaking", but the buzz is that it's going to be larger than that of recent history.  CNBC reported Social Security cost-of-living adjustment could be at least 6% in 2022, the higher amount being due to inflation, but the increase in purchasing power will be tempered by the Medicare Part B premiums and income taxes.   The Senior Citizens League (the source of the estimate) explains its process "Our forecast is based on CPI data through August, and there is still one more month of consumer price data to come in before we get the official announcement in October ... [and] [t]his year is particularly difficult to forecast with certainty... [due to] inflation patterns, caused in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, [which] were unprecedented...."

It won't be long before we get the official news from SSA. Stay tuned....

September 29, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Social Security & Medicare Trustees' Reports

We know they come out every year. This year is no exception. They are out! What do we learn from them? I'll give you the highlights here (those of you who have looked at the reports before know they are long and detailed....)

The Medicare Trustees' Report, released August 31, 2021, is available here.  The introduction explains the impact of COVID, and COVID vaccines, on Medicare, but not "Aduhelm, the Alzheimer’s disease drug that has been recently approved."  The introduction also references potential future scientific advances and how that would be factored into projections.  The one thing everyone wants to know from the Trustees Annual Report is what is the fiscal health of Medicare?  "The estimated depletion date for the HI trust fund is 2026, the same as in last year’s report. As in past years, the Trustees have determined that the fund is not adequately financed over the next 10 years. HI income is projected to be lower than last year’s estimates due to lower payroll taxes."  If you don't have time to peruse the entire report, read the introduction. It's very interesting!

Here's an excerpt from the conclusion:

The Trustees project that HI tax income and other dedicated revenues will fall short of HI expenditures in all future years. The HI trust fund does not meet either the Trustees’ test of short-range financial adequacy or their test of long-range close actuarial balance.


The Part B and Part D accounts in the SMI trust fund are expected to be adequately financed because income from premiums and general revenue are reset each year to cover expected costs. Such financing, however, would have to increase faster than the economy to cover expected expenditure growth.


The financial projections in this report indicate a need for substantial changes to address Medicare’s financial challenges. The sooner solutions are enacted, the more flexible and gradual they can be. The early introduction of reforms increases the time available for affected individuals and organizations—including health care providers, beneficiaries, and taxpayers—to adjust their expectations and behavior. The Trustees recommend that Congress and the executive branch work closely together with a sense of urgency to address these challenges.

The 2021 Social Security Trustees' Report is available through this page.

According to a summary provided by the SSA & Medicare Trustees, "Based on our best estimates, the 2021 reports show:"

• The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund, which pays retirement and survivors benefits, will be able to pay scheduled benefits on a timely basis until 2033, one year earlier than reported last year. At that time, the fund's reserves will become depleted and continuing tax income will be sufficient to pay 76 percent of scheduled benefits.

• The Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund, which pays disability benefits, will be able to pay scheduled benefits until 2057, 8 years earlier than in last year's report. At that time, the fund's reserves will become depleted and continuing tax income will be sufficient to pay 91 percent of scheduled benefits.

 

September 15, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Retirement, Social Security, Statistics | Permalink

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Examining Use and Misuse of Tax-Exempt or Deferred Financial Retirement Savings Plans As Increasing Economic Disparity

Check out "America is Spending A Fortune to Help Rich People Retire in Luxury," authored by Michael Mechanic. Published this week in Mother Jones, the article examines how "America's most affluent" use Roth IRAs and similar "federally subsidized retirement accounts meant for middle-class savers" to maximize their wealth.  

But it turns out IRAs are only the tip of the iceberg. The bigger problem, according to Steve Rosenthal, a tax attorney and senior fellow at Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, is that, thanks to a series of bipartisan bills Congress has passed over the past quarter-century, the government spends a fortune subsidizing a whole range of retirement plans whose benefits flow overwhelmingly to America’s most affluent. “It’s unbelievable the amounts of dollars at stake, and how tilted they are to the high end,” Rosenthal told me. “It’s just staggering.”

 

Indeed, such subsidies are the federal government’s single biggest tax-related expense, costing hundreds of billions of dollars per year. From 2020 through 2024, the JCT estimates, tax breaks and deferrals for retirement contributions will cost the Treasury $1.9 trillion—far more than the cost of the child/dependent or earned income tax credits, tax deductions for charitable donations, tax exclusions on long-term capital gains, or corporate tax breaks for employer-provided health and life insurance benefits. “These retirement reform packages are exceptionally confusing and technical and long and really hard for anyone to sort out,” says Rosenthal, a former JCT staff lawyer himself. “But embedded in every one are easter eggs: big giveaways to the retirement industry and to high-net-worth individuals.”

There is a lot to unpack here, and I could certainly see a seminar course built around this topic, including the complexity of finding solutions that don't harm the more-modest investor who will need every dime in retirement.  

My thanks to University of Virginia Law Professor Naomi Cahn for sharing the article, and to her colleague at UVA, Professor Michael Doran, who is prominently cited in the article  for his critiques of so-called savings reforms that "delivered expensive and unnecessary tax subsidies," that benefited higher income families and the financial services industry.

September 2, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Discrimination, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, June 21, 2021

Debt and Elders: GAO Report

This GAO report is a couple of months old, but I think it's important enough to bring it to your attention,  Retirement Security: Debt Increased for Older Americans over Time, but the Implications Vary by Debt Type.

Here are the fast facts from the report:

Older Americans held nearly half of the total debt in 2020—debt that may affect their retirement security. We found that older Americans had significantly more debt in 2016 than in 1989.

We also found that low-income, older Americans had greater "debt stress"—the ratio of debts to assets. In 2016, debt stress was about two times higher for minority households than White households.

Experts said that different debt types (credit cards, housing debt, etc.) have varying effects on retirement security. For example, carrying credit card debt with high variable interest rates may make it difficult for the elderly to save for retirement.

The full report is available here, the highlights here.

June 21, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Other, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Unilateral Attempts to Change Scope of Services in Continuing Care and Life Plan Communities

With lockdowns being lifted in commercial arenas, I'm once again hearing from residents in Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), also sometimes called Life Plan Communities, as well as other similar senior living settings.  The most frequently raised concern is "how can management of my community make major changes in services and amenities without asking us if we agree to a new contract?"  Sometimes I am able to recommend local legal counsel for the callers.

As a matter of theory, there's a traditional  "law-based" answer to this question, with state-specific tweaks.  And then there is what happens all too often in real life. 

Generally speaking, the law provides that unilateral attempts by one party to make significant changes in the parties' duties under a contract are not legally effective.  Here's one state Supreme Court's typical statement of the rule of law (written in the context of considering an employer's unilateral attempt to change an employment contract):

The cases dealing with employment contracts are merely part of the general rule that recognizes no difference between an express and an implied contract.... As a result, to effectively modify a contract, whether implied-in-fact or express, there must be: (1) an offer to modify the contract, (2) assent to or acceptance of that offer, and (3) consideration."

Demasse v. ITT Corp., 984 P.2d 1138, 1144 (Az. 1999).  As my law students know, "consideration" is a legal term of art, and generally means a "bargained for exchange." In the context of modification of existing agreements, this often involves new financial terms or mutual concessions in the parties' respective duties.

But, the real-life situation is that the party with the greater bargaining power simply ignores the bargaining process altogether. In employment contexts, that's the employer.  They treat their notice of major changes as "the new agreement" simply because no one objected.  That's not how the rule of law is supposed to work, but it does, all too often.  Indeed, I will confess that the very reason I started teaching Contract law was my growing familiarity with disputes in senior living scenarios that made me wonder if there was something about contract law I'd missed back in my own days as a law student.  There wasn't (although the full explanation would require a law review article) -- but the world keeps spinning along with the more powerful party in many commercial contexts able to avoid the contract because they are "in charge."  

Residents don't, however, have to put up with this.  Resident groups in individual CCRCs and those living in states where there are regional organizations have learned to flex their considerable muscle, both in negotiations with management and with state regulators or legislators.  I'm also hearing from more attorneys who are representing residents in negotiations, or when necessary, in arbitrations or on  lawsuits alleging breaches of contract and fiduciary duties.  Plus, I'm hearing from more states officials who are asking good questions.

It not a secret that I like CCRCs and I like them a lot.  I've visited CCRCs throughout the U.S. and they tend to be vital examples of senior living, offering community engagement, social networks, friendly-settings, caring service providers, and the reassurance of assistance if needed.  Many forms of senior living options are struggling with the impact of the pandemic, with enhanced pressures on facilities to balance their budgets. This is probably triggering a new upswing in attempts to make unilateral changes.  

I have worried, long before the pandemic, that an episodic  history of paternalistic or peremptory changes by management in CCRCs can undermine public confidence in this format as a viable alternative for seniors.  CCRCs have their highest value for consumers when residents are making the transition before becoming too frail to appreciated the amenities and services.  New residents may be unlikely to  "invest" in CCRCs if they lack confidence that promised services will be available when needed.  

June 3, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Elders in China Have to Delay Retirement?

A few weeks ago the New York Times ran an article regarding the need for delayed retirement on the part of many Chinese elders. A Graying China May Have to Put Off Retirement. Workers Aren’t Happy, notes that the "Chinese government said it would raise the mandatory retirement age, which is currently 60 for men."  Why, you ask, did China announce this unpopular plan? Because, according to the article, this phased-in "delay [of] the legal retirement age” over the next five years, [is] an attempt to address one of the country’s most pressing issues. Its rapidly aging population means a shrinking labor force. State pension funds are at risk of running out. And China has some of the lowest retirement ages in the world: 50 for blue-collar female workers, 55 for white-collar female workers, and 60 for most men."  The article notes other countries that have taken a similar approach and the bumpy road in doing so.  It also notes that this was a problem decades in the making.  There are ramifications of this approach (beyond unhappy workers), including "[the risk of] undermining another major government priority: encouraging couples to have more children, to slow the aging of the population."

Stay tuned.

May 27, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, International, Other, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 17, 2021

Increase in Retirements During Pandemic

The New York Times published an article,  In Reversal, Retirements Increased During the Pandemic. "After decades in which it decreased, the retirement rate rose during the pandemic, according to the latest government data. This makes retirement one exception to the many ways that the pandemic accelerated pre-existing trends .... "  The article examines the explanations for this trend, such as losing employment, an employer going out of business, and the higher risk of illness for those employees who are older.  The article predicts that the trend won't continue. "Even though the retirement rate increased during the pandemic, it won’t necessarily rise further. It’s worth emphasizing that the retirement rate rose around the start of the pandemic but did not continue to do so. After the initial spike in joblessness at the start of the pandemic, the share of those 55 to 64 who were out of work but not retired fell rapidly without a further rise in retirement."

May 17, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Retirement, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)