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Apr 8, 2014

It takes villages: Boomers’ new retirement communities

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Where do retired recreational vehicle enthusiasts go when they get too old to hit the road? Some are parking – permanently – at the Escapees Care Center, an adult day-care center in Livingston, Texas, where they can live in their RVs and pay monthly fees that cover whatever care they may need and commune with other enthusiasts.

The center is just one example among dozens of innovative communal retirement living arrangements springing up around the country as boomers seek out alternatives to traditional senior living models. Some support aging in place, such as Beacon Hill Village in Boston, a grassroots community founded by a small group of neighborhood residents. Others involve moves to new communities of like-minded souls – retired postal workers, LGBT seniors, artists, Zen Buddhists and, yes, RV lovers.

Apr 3, 2014

Medicare reform redux: How Ryan’s new plan squeezes seniors

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Imagine a Medicare reform plan that boosts your premiums 50 percent. If you like your doctor, you won’t be able to keep her. The wealthy will subsidize healthcare for poor seniors.

An Obamacare takeover of Medicare? Nope. It’s the latest iteration of “premium support,” the plan for Medicare unveiled this week by U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).

Apr 1, 2014

Company pension plans are healthier, but they’re still dying

CHICAGO (Reuters) – This should be good news: At a time when worry about the retirement security of American workers is rising, traditional pension plans finished 2013 in their best shape last year since the financial crisis of 2008. Yet that may only be setting the table for more corporations to stop offering them.

The funding deficit of the 100 largest pension plans sponsored by publicly traded U.S. corporations plunged 57 percent in 2013, to $125.9 billion in the year-ago period, according to Towers Watson, the benefits consulting firm. (Funding is a measure of the assets that plans have on hand to pay projected obligations to beneficiaries.)

Mar 27, 2014

Should young retirement savers load up on stocks? Maybe not

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Millennials don’t seem to buy the traditional wisdom when it comes to investing. They’re the most risk-averse investors since the Great Depression, with the average portfolio 52 percent in cash, according to a recent report by UBS Wealth Management Americas.

That runs counter to what most investment experts will tell you – that young people need the greatest exposure to riskier stocks to meet long-range goals, and that equity allocations should decline as retirement approaches. That philosophy underpins the fastest-growing retirement savings product in the market today, the target date fund (TDF).

Mar 25, 2014

‘File-and-suspend’: A Social Security strategy under fire

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Are high-income Americans gaming Social Security? The Obama administration wants to go after the wealthy for “aggressive” moves to “manipulate” their Social Security claiming decisions, according to the fiscal 2015 budget released by the White House earlier this month.

The administration hasn’t offered much elaboration, but a White House official, speaking on background, confirmed to me that the target is a benefit claiming strategy known as file-and-suspend – a twist on the more straightforward strategy of delayed filing to earn a higher monthly benefit down the road. Although it’s technically available to anyone, the White House thinks the strategy is being used to unfair advantage by high-income seniors and wants to shut it down because of the added benefit cost it imposes on the Social Security program.

Mar 20, 2014

The other Social Security battle: the squeeze on customer service

CHICAGO (Reuters) – If you want to understand the fight over Social Security’s future, look no further than your annual benefit statement – if you can find one.

The Social Security Administration stopped mailing annual statements in 2011 in a budget-cutting move that saves $70 million annually. The SSA rolled out an online statement the following year, but only 10 million American wage earners have signed up. That’s a paltry 6 percent of all workers.

Mar 18, 2014

Retirement confidence bounces back, but only among wealthy savers

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Americans who owned stocks in 2013 are feeling better about their retirement prospects than they did just a few years ago. For everyone else, not so much.

The longest-running survey of American retirement sentiment shows confidence rose in 2013, the first increase since sentiment plunged following the Great Recession of 2008-2009.

Mar 11, 2014

Why employers are shifting retiree health into insurance exchanges

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A dwindling number of retirees get supplemental health insurance coverage from their former employers. But for those who do, big changes are afoot.

A growing number of companies are dropping single-employer group insurance plans in favor of privately run insurance exchanges, where a third party sets up a marketplace offering Medicare coverage offered by dozens of carriers, with costs subsidized by their former employers.

Mar 6, 2014

Why a Roth IRA for the baby would be a blessed event

CHICAGO (Reuters) – When an infant is born, the hospital paperwork for parents includes birth certificate and Social Security number applications. Soon, though, there could be another document to fill out: a Roth IRA account setup form.

That’s the thrust of the Roth Account for Youths Savings Act, or RAYS Act, introduced last week in the U.S. House of Representatives by Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas).

Feb 27, 2014

Your Medicare card: Go ahead, leave home without it

CHICAGO (Reuters) – What’s in seniors’ wallets? Most likely, a Medicare card that leaves them vulnerable to scams and fraud.

It’s a peculiar anachronism in this era of digital insecurity: Social Security numbers are printed on every Medicare card, and the back of the card instructs seniors to carry it with them at all times. (Medicare’s identification number is called the Health Insurance Claim Number, but your HICN is your Social Security number.)

    • 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 RetirementRevised.com. 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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