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Jan 7, 2014

Filing early for Social Security? Therapy may be in order

CHICAGO, Jan 7 (Reuters) – Deciding when to claim Social
Security benefits is one of the most important retirement moves
you will make. Social Security is by far the largest retirement
asset for all but the wealthiest Americans, and the only source
of guaranteed lifetime income – with incredibly valuable annual
inflation adjustments.

And most of us are flubbing it.

In 2012, 38 percent of men, and 43 percent of women, filed
for benefits at age 62, according to the Social Security
Administration. An additional 41 percent of men, and 37 percent
of women, filed by their full retirement age. Just 3 percent
took benefits at age 67 or later. (The remainder were Social
Security disability recipients, who are converted automatically
to retirement benefits at their full retirement age.)

Dec 20, 2013

An 80-year-old Peace Corps volunteer? No sweat

By Mark Miller

CHICAGO – Vivian Davis walks five or six miles every day in her work as a an AIDS/HIV outreach worker for the Peace Corps in rural South Africa. “I just get around town visiting with people, or go to the Internet cafe,” she says. “It keeps me healthy.”

Her routine isn’t out of the ordinary for a Peace Corps volunteer – until you consider that Davis recently celebrated her 80th birthday.

Dec 17, 2013

Why your health insurance may soon resemble your 401(k)

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Are you ready for the 401(k)-ization of health insurance?

If not, get ready, because there’s a good chance it’s coming to your workplace soon. That was the consensus of some of the nation’s top employee benefits experts, who gathered last week for a conference in the nation’s capital.

What we’re talking about here is a shift in workplace health insurance akin to the dramatic shift in recent decades from traditional pensions to 401(k)s. Health insurance will move in the same direction in the next five years, according to experts at the annual policy forum sponsored by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

Dec 12, 2013

Column: Why minorities are losing the retirement race

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The issue of retirement inequality has caught fire in Washington, D.C., and a report issued this week throws a new log on the flames.

The report zeroes in on the appalling gap in retirement security among racial groups in America. The National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), a non-profit research group, found that workers of color – especially Latinos – are far behind whites by every measure. They are significantly less likely than white workers to be covered by a workplace 401(k) or defined-benefit pension. Tossing non-workplace accounts into the picture – individual retirement accounts, Roths, SEP IRAs – the report finds that two-thirds or more of black and Latino households have no retirement savings at all.

Dec 10, 2013

Silicon Valley techies who take the elderly seriously

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Kai Stinchcombe isn’t your typical Millennial in Silicon Valley. At age 30, he has launched a company that targets a consumer group that doesn’t interest most tech companies in the neighborhood: the elderly.

Stinchcombe’s company, True Link, is posed to roll out a debit card tied to software that can guard unsuspecting seniors against financial fraud and abuse. It’s meant to address a huge, underreported problem that results in financial losses of $2.9 billion a year in the United States, according to a Metlife study. And fraud will only worsen with the aging of the baby boom generation, which will create a vast, tempting group of targets for scammers hawking things like fake charities, magazine subscriptions, overpriced hearing aids and home repairs.

Dec 5, 2013

A holiday reading list for the retiree on your list

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Now that the baby boomer age wave is crashing ashore, Americans are retiring by the boatload. About 10,000 of us will turn 65 every day for the next 17 years, the Pew Research Center tells us. If someone on your gift list is hitting the beach this holiday season, a little guidance is in order – and that’s a stocking-stuffer opportunity. Here’s a list of recommended reading on some key issues facing retirees, distilled from my ever-more-crowded bookcase full of volumes on the topic.

The list is highly subjective, of course – and it reflects my enthusiasm for basic blocking and tackling on financial matters and a holistic approach to retirement that goes far beyond money.

Dec 3, 2013

Debunking myths about Americans’ longevity gains

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Americans are living longer. We hear that claim often from politicians worried about entitlement spending, policymakers urging us to postpone retirement – even insurance companies pitching annuities.

And it’s true: Average life expectancy in the United States rose by almost eight years from 1978 to 2011, to 78.7 years, according to a new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. But here’s something you’ll hear less often: Longevity is rising much more slowly in the United States than in other major industrialized nations. In fact, the average life expectancy among member nations of the OECD is now higher, at 80.1 years, than the U.S. average. (The OECD comprises most of the world’s major economic powers, including the United States.)

Nov 26, 2013

The shape of 401(k) plans to come – and why they’re changing

CHICAGO (Reuters) – What will your 401(k) look like in five years? Not the account balance – that will be determined mainly by the size of your contributions and market performance – but the plan itself. There’s a good chance your employer will make some important changes over the next few years, as the industry ushers in changes aimed at getting you to save more – and do more planning for retirement.

That’s the key finding of a survey released last week reflecting the views of 55 401(k) experts who were asked to predict the ways workplace plans will evolve over the next five years. The study, sponsored by plan provider Transamerica Retirement Solutions, queried industry insiders at organizations ranging from research, consulting and trade organizations to universities and financial services companies.

Nov 21, 2013

A plea for ‘slow medicine’ and ‘good deaths’ for the elderly

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Katy Butler wanted her elderly father’s pacemaker turned off, but she couldn’t get a doctor to do it.

In 2001, Butler’s father, Jeffrey, suffered a debilitating stroke at age 79. Two years later, his doctor recommended installation of a pacemaker that would help him survive hernia surgery – a decision that seemed harmless at the time but one that ultimately “helped his heart outlive his brain,” as Katy puts it in her new book, “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” (Scribner).

Nov 19, 2013

When your pension sponsor talks ‘de-risking’ – watch out

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A growing number of employers are making plans to “de-risk” their pension plans. That’s jargon for reducing the financial risk posed to corporate balance sheets by pension plans – but if you have a defined-benefit pension and you start hearing that term tossed around, pay careful attention. Less risk for employers can mean more risk for you.

A survey of 180 pension plan sponsors by Towers Watson, the benefits consulting firm, found that 75 percent have implemented or are planning de-risking maneuvers. Their motive is to reduce risk posed by unfunded pension liabilities, which must be carried on the books as debt and hurt a company’s ratings from debt agencies.

    • 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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