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Feb 25, 2014

Medicare cost shifting: The next big worry for seniors

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Seniors can breathe a little easier now that Social Security benefit cuts are no longer part of this year’s federal budget debate. But the other shoe hasn’t dropped in Washington. That would be Medicare cost shifting.

Last week, President Barack Obama’s administration ditched one of its worst retirement policy ideas, the “chained CPI” for Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). But we still don’t know if the president or lawmakers will renew efforts to shift a higher share of Medicare costs to seniors as part of budget talks this year.

Feb 20, 2014

Wanted: Financial advisers who aren’t about to hang it up

CHICAGO (Reuters) – If you’ve ever thought about getting some professional help with your retirement plan, this would be a great time to get going. Financial advisers may be in short supply in the years ahead.

A brain drain is about to hit the world of financial planning, according to Cerulli Associates, a financial services consulting firm. Cerulli reports that 32 percent of all advisers will retire in the next 10 years. At the same time, the industry isn’t hiring nearly enough new blood to replace them, let alone expand the ranks to handle the anticipated surge in demand.

Feb 18, 2014

How scary is an older America? Americans aren’t sweating it

18 (Reuters) – America is aging, and it’s
supposed to be a big downer. Pensions are crushing government
budgets, Social Security is in trouble and Medicare costs are
going through the roof.

But someone must be putting Prozac in our water supply,
because we don’t seem to be fretting. A recent Pew Research
Center study of attitudes about aging in 21 countries finds
Americans far less worried about the aging trend than others.
Just 26 percent say aging is a problem in our country, compared
with 43 percent of the British, 55 percent of Germans, 67
percent of Chinese and 87 percent of Japanese.

Feb 13, 2014

The 401(k) cash-out: A brewing retirement savings crisis?

CHICAGO (Reuters) – When you change jobs, do you take the money and run? A large and growing number of young and low-income workers do just that with their 401(k)s, and it’s damaging their chances of building adequate retirement savings down the road.

Data released today by Fidelity Investments shows that 35 percent of all participants in plans it administers cashed out their 401(k) balances when leaving their jobs last year, and the trend was even worse for young and lower-income workers. Four out of 10 workers (41 percent) age 20 to 39 cashed out, and 51 percent of workers who left jobs grossing under $30,000 cashed out.

Feb 11, 2014

Elder poverty – however you measure it – is not going away

CHICAGO (Reuters) – “Without Social Security, nearly half of seniors would be living in poverty,” President Barack Obama said last month, noting the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty. “Today, fewer than one in seven do. Before Medicare, only half of seniors had some form of health insurance. Today, virtually all do.”

Is the war on elder poverty over? Fewer older Americans are poor than any other age group – we heard that often in retrospectives on the war on poverty, and it comes up often in debates about possible cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Feb 6, 2014

How Obamacare is creating new pathways to retirement

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Is President Obama’s health reform law a job killer? Republicans seized on a new high-profile analysis of the Affordable Care Act this week to ram home that oft-repeated talking point.

But the report, issued this week by the Congressional Budget Office, actually says something quite different: Jobs won’t be destroyed, but more Americans will choose to work fewer hours because of the ACA’s structure, which subsidizes the cost of health insurance for households with low- and middle-range incomes.

Feb 4, 2014

MyRA won’t close the nest egg gap. Maybe the states can

CHICAGO (Reuters) – If states are the laboratories of democracy, they need to start some retirement savings experiments – quick. About half of Americans haven’t been able to create nest eggs at all, and the labs working the problem in Washington haven’t found solutions.

That’s my take on MyRA, the retirement saving program President Barack Obama announced during his State of the Union address last week. MyRA – My IRA, if you will – aims to help workers at companies that don’t have retirement plans set aside small amounts from their paychecks in a savings bond-like product.

Jan 30, 2014

Enrolling in Medicare: Your boss doesn’t always know best

CHICAGO (Reuters) – You’re getting ready to retire, and need to navigate the transition from your employer’s health insurance plan to Medicare. Where do you go for help? If you’re guessing your human resources department, you may be guessing wrong.

Transitioning to Medicare from your employer’s health insurance presents some complex challenges – and missteps can result in costly premium penalties and coverage gaps. But consumer experts who provide Medicare enrollment assistance say employers don’t always provide the right answers.

Jan 28, 2014

The ‘side gig’: It’s a passion, a Plan B, an exit strategy

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Jeffrey Nash saw the handwriting on the wall a few years ago, and the message wasn’t good. A 56-year-old salesman for a large men’s clothing retailer in Las Vegas, his base pay had been cut 40 percent and he faced stiff competition from younger, lower-compensated sales staff. He knew the job wouldn’t last much longer.

Nash was too young to retire, and knew he needed a Plan B. Looking for a business he could start, inspiration struck. Watching a young mother teaching her toddler how to walk, he mused about a baby walker that would help parents assist their kids with first steps without being forced to bend over and strain their backs.

Jan 23, 2014

Hospitalized but ‘under observation’? Seniors, beware

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A growing number of seniors who think they’ve been hospitalized are finding that they really weren’t.

The problem isn’t memory loss, confusion or dementia. Instead, seniors on Medicare who did in fact spend multiple nights in the hospital are learning later on that they weren’t formally admitted. Instead, they had “observation status” – a Medicare classification that can cost seniors thousands of extra dollars if they need post-hospital nursing care.

    • About Mark

      "Mark Miller is a journalist and author who writes about trends in retirement and aging. He has a special focus on how the baby boomer generation is revising its approach to careers, money and lifestyle after age 50. Mark is the author of The Hard Times Guide to Retirement Security: Practical Strategies for Money, Work and Living (John Wiley & Sons/Bloomberg Press, 2010) and edits Mark is the former editor of Crain’s Chicago Business, and former Sunday editor of the Chicago Sun-Times. The opinions expressed here are his own."
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