March/April 2016

March 1, 2016


Retirement on the Rocks – Why Americans Can’t Get Ahead and How New Savings Policies Can Help

Author Christian E. Weller, a frequent talking head on national broadcast and television news, provides a fresh, new perspective on the challenges that Americans face when saving for retirement.  His account helps seniors to think more clearly about the types of labor market and financial risks that families face, how they are changing, and their impact on Americans’ retirement security.  Weller argues that exposure to these risks has risen just as these risks have become greater, leaving people’s retirement prospects diminished.  Further, the account flows nicely into a discussion of his innovative policy ideas, which deserve serious consideration and debate.  This book has much to offer retirement scholars, policymakers, and the interested public worried about their economic security in retirement.

“The vast majority of working Americans – including more than 40 percent of workers over age 50 – feel unprepared for their own retirement.  Weller effectively describes how our current system undermines the goal of retirement. But more importantly, he offers a broad set of solutions to improve retirement savings, investing and withdrawals and even update Social Security to help low income families.  Too often people only look at a single quick fix that misses the complexity of all that is broken.”

“Few issues vex Americans more than inadequate retirement preparation.  And few books provide a clearer picture of the problem and what can be done to fix it than Weller’s deeply researched analysis.  Weller covers all the bases: the gaps in Social Security, the perils of employment-based accounts, the upside-down structure of tax breaks, and the huge financial barriers that stand between a risk-inundated middle class and sufficient retirement wealth.  Perhaps most important, he lays out an ambitious but realistic path toward a stronger and fairer system that can provide the retirement security that so many Americans feel they have lost.

Weller is a Professor of Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts in Boston and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.  He is a prolific author with well over 100 journal articles, edited volumes, book chapters, book reviews, and other publications, in addition to the executive boards of the Eastern Economic Association and the Labor and Employment Relations Association.  The 240-page book is published by Palsgrave Macmillan US and costs about $50 (hardcover).  For details call customer service at 1-800-777-4643.


How Do Non-Financial Factors Affect Retirement Decisions?

Financial factors clearly influence retirement decisions, as everyone would like to have sufficient income when they leave the workforce.  But numerous studies find that such factors are only a small part of the story.  Non-financial considerations clearly contribute to the decision to retire.

Studies show that financial factors have a statistically significant, but small impact on retirement.  This brief from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College reviews studies, mainly by the Social Security Administration’s Retirement Research Consortium, that examine how two types of non-financial factors affect retirement decisions: the worker’s on-the-job experience and the allure of retirement activities.  So it is not surprising that non-financial factors have a major influence on those who choose to work into their late 60s or 70s.  When workers retire, they are often being pulled by a desire for other activities rather than being pushed by a dislike of work.

The discussion proceeds as follows.  The first section presents evidence that a positive work experience is a critical component in decisions of workers ages 65 and over to remain in the labor force.  The second section identifies job characteristics that either incline workers to retire or to remain on the job.  The third section concludes that non-financial benefits seem far more important than non-financial costs – both in keeping some workers in the labor force and drawing others into retirement.

The studies reviewed in this brief provide little support for the notion that adverse job characteristics push a significant number of workers into retirement.  They instead identify the importance of non-financial rewards in keeping some workers in the labor force and pulling others – the majority – into retirement.

Non-financial factors rightly play an important role in work-and-retirement decisions.  But given the importance of the decision to worker’s financial well-being, it is important that they also understand and carefully weigh the financial implications in deciding when to exit the labor force.  Few workers, however, are equipped even to estimate the financial implications.  This inability raises the prospect of many workers being pulled out of the labor force too early to gain a financially secure retirement.  To read the full brief, click here.


Three Job-Hunting Tips for Senior Citizens

Although retirement can be a time to rediscover interests, travel and spend time with grandchildren, the slower pace often has financial implications for seniors.  Augmenting Social Security may be something to consider.

A part-time job can be a way to supplement Social Security, discover new interests and keep busy.  Many seniors may not know where to even begin the job-hunting process.  “It’s easiest to start with people they already know, explaining their current interests and the need for work, then asking those people they know who might be of help,” say Brie Reynolds, a career adviser and director of online content at website FlexJobs.

Reach Out of Your Comfort Zone
You don’t have to stick to applying for part-time jobs that are in your former profession but a network of contacts from your career days may help.  Seniors shouldn’t discount the professional network they build up throughout their careers.  Even though they’re pursuing part-time work that is not based on their previous work, their network can help them connect with lots of other people in other fields.

Use Your Social Circle
Start the network approach though those closest to you, says Jeff Adams, a career coach with Charlotte Works.  Those who are job hunting after retirement should tell every one – family, friends, church members, fellow Rotarians, even the teachers at your grandkid’s school.

He even suggests taking job hunting to a higher level.  “Your bridge club or neighborhood association that goes on trips or to exercise class – any group of people that you meet and socialize with regularly becomes one of your networking groups,” Adams says.

“Start by asking someone about things you like, “You used to be in X field? That’s interesting, because I’m exploring the same field.  Tell me about what you used to do,” Adams says.  This exchange can help you to learn about the field, the specific jobs, how the industry has changed or is changing, and the opportunities.

“Find out what contacts your source still has in the industry and/or in his or her former company,” Adams says.

Embrace Social Media
Social media is important in any part-time job search or career change, and a tactic that retirees or seniors can’t afford to ignore.

“Active social media profiles also demonstrate an aptitude to learn new skills, which is certainly important when switching careers or trying to break into a different industry,” FlexJobs’ Reynolds says.

“Knowing that a candidate isn’t afraid to venture into new territory, which social media is for many seniors, send a great message to recruiters about willingness to take on and embrace new challenges,” she says.


AARP Introduces Website Identifying Member Advantages

Saving money just got easier at home and on the go with the introduction of a new website designed to help AARP members take advantage of the many benefits offered to them, including everyday travel, entertainment and dining discounts, and special insurance and financial products.

The new AARP Member Advantages website,, helps AARP members find benefits offered to them within one centralized online location.  The website is optimized for mobile devices and tablets, making it easier to navigate on the go, and intuitively designed for a seamless experience.  Members can search for local discounts, save offers in their profile and share them with their friends via social media.

“AARP members are engaged technology users and some of the biggest consumers of personal tech.  In fact, three out of five Baby Boomers say they use the internet at least daily,” said Dave Austin, vice president, marketing services at AARP Services Inc.  “These resources were developed to help AARP members easily find and use the benefits available to them and get the most out of their membership.”

The new identifies users personal preferences to customize each experience depending on which benefits each particular user cares about most.  The new website allows users to easily access deals and offers by utilizing their location and profile information to identify the nearest provider stores and offices.  With the new website, users can also access educational content regarding financial and health offers.

“AARP members are very active; they are constantly on the go,” said Gaurav Bhatia, vice president, digital strategy, at AARP Services Inc.  “Creating a mobile-optimized experience was a natural next step in providing them quick and convenient access to their AARP member benefits.”

The new website also offers users an optimized car rental widget that allows members to compare AARP discounted prices from Avis, Budget and Payless by simply entering their airport pick-up and drop-off details.

Members can also download the AARP Member Advantages Offer Finder mobile app and find nearby deals on a map or in a list.  App users can filter providers from a broad range of categories, including home and auto, hotel and resorts, dining and entertainment and electronics.

“Two of our primary goals with this app were to make accessing discounts easier and provide a personalized mobile experience for our members,” Bhatia added.  “With the Offer Finder app, AARP members can find ways to save from virtually anywhere by logging in and accessing their membership card.  Now they won’t have to deal with the hassle of digging through their wallet or purse to find their card because it will easily be available on their mobile device.”

AARP memberships cost just $16 a year and can often be recouped by using just a few of the many discounts available.  To take advantage of any discount or service offered to AARP members, or to find out about all the ways AARP members can save, download the free AARP Member Advantages Offer Finder mobile app for iOS and Android devices or visit


Questions to Ask Senior Parents

You may think that sticky conversations and awkward questions between you and your parents are a thing of the past now that you’re an adult and on your own.  Get ready for a little role reversal.  As your parents age, you’re more likely to be the one asking uncomfortable questions.

Although some parents are transparent with their adult children and provide them with a complete plan for their senior years, others are less willing to face the reality of preparing for advanced age.  If your parents haven’t shared a plan with you, it’s time to start asking questions.

A good place to start is with a heartfelt conversation about their plans for housing after retirement and for potential health care issues, says Chris Alberta, CEO of Senior Benefits Group Retirement Advisors and president of Alberta Enterprises Inc. in Brighton, Michigan.  Ask your parents two questions.

1. Are you planning to age in place or live in senior housing?
Plans may change as their needs change, but ask your parents whether they hope to stay put in the family home or expect to move.

“What it really boils down to is this: Where are your parents most comfortable?” Alberta says.  “Sometimes the emotional cost of trying to maintain a residence during health issues can be far greater than the financial cost.”

However, sometime it makes more financial sense for you to pay to maintain your parents’ home for them in retirement, especially if your parents own the home without a mortgage and want to pass it on to you, Alberta says.

2. Have you considered long-term or in-home care insurance?
A great many parents know that their children love them enough to participate in or facilitate long-term care for them if the need arose, but many parents would never want to ask them to do so,” Alberta says.  Some people opt for an “in-home care” insurance policy rather than a full long-term care insurance policy.  “What it really boils down to is this:

Where are your parents most comfortable?”

“Not only is the premium much more digestible, but it offers them the ability to stay full time with their spouse in the home that they love,” Alberta says.  “Some parents may have some provisions for long-term care and not even realize it.  For example, many annuities offer enhanced income benefits for those who need care.

Moreover, clients without substantial assets may consider working with an elder-law attorney to devise an action plan, if the need for care arose.

Far too many families spend most of their nest egg before realizing that a large portion could have been legally protected for the healthy spouse, Alberta says.  These retirement issues aren’t particularly cheerful, but they are a necessary part of planning for your parents’ future, even if they are in denial doubt growing older.


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