Boomers, Markets & Money

A Down-to-Earth Discussion of Financial and Lifestyle Information for Baby Boomers


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Summary of “Boomers and the Great Recession: Struggling to Recover”

AARP also recommends that older workers keep up-to-date with the latest job skills.

AARP recommends that unemployed workers receive government help with job training. (Click to Enlarge)

Here is a summary of points in a 131-page report prepared by the AARP Public Policy Institute on Baby Boomers experiences during the Great Recession and soon after.

Study surveys found:

  • 47% of Baby Boomers who were unemployed gave job loss as the reason for not working.

What the unemployed perceived as significant job search barriers:

  • The struggling economy.
  • One-third to one-half felt that age discrimination was a factor.

Feelings of the recently reemployed:

Fewer than 50% felt they were on target for their financial goals.

Reasons why they felt this way:

  • Pay at the new job was lower and savings were depleted.
  • Debt levels were too high.
  • They were hired as temps.

How Boomers surveyed coped with financial setbacks

  • Most commonly, they cut expenses.
  • They withdrew money from savings accounts.
  • Some postponed medical or dental care or stopped taking medications.

Researchers wrote “More than half of the Boomers surveyed stated that they were less confident of having enough money for a comfortable retirement than they had been before the recession started.”

Biggest worries for Baby Boomers:

  •  Cost of health care and long-term care.
  •  Inflation
  • Unable to leave an adequate inheritance
  • Unable to live in their own home.
  • The surviving spouse might not be able to maintain their way of life.

A selection of the report’s public policy recommendations:

  • Encourage older workers to take advantage of employer training programs. AARP advises employees who are close to retirement to continue to participate in training. They may be forced to stay in the workforce longer than planned or to re-enter the workforce after retirement.
  • Offer financial assistance to cover training costs for unemployed workers. Government data on job skills needed and areas of demand needs to be timely, accurate and easy to obtain.
  • Increase monitoring and enforcement of age-discrimination laws.
  • Let older workers know about government and private programs that offer advice on entrepreneurship. Information should be available about the suitability of considering this as a primary or secondary source of income.
  • “As traditional pensions decline, Social Security remains the only major stable retirement income source. It is critical that this program be protected.”

Source:

SURVEY METHODOLOGY  (Click to Enlarge)

SURVEY METHODOLOGY (Click to Enlarge)

“Boomers and The Great Recession” By the Public Policy team at AARP Public Policy Institute. September 2012. You can find a ink to the PDF of the 131 page report in this article.

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Review of PBS Frontline’s “The Retirement Gamble”

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Summary and Link to Interesting Video on Recent Retirement Study

I saw an interesting interview on Bloomberg Surveillance this morning that is worth watching and have included a link below.  Tom Keene interviewed Andrew Sieg, head of Global Wealth & Retirement Solutions at Bank of America, about a recent study on near-retirees and retirees.

A quick summary of some of the points:

  • Tom Keene believes politicians have created an uncertain future for people nearing retirement. Conversations seem to be dominated by this fear.
  • Healthcare costs are the big “wildcard” of retirement expenses.  Retirees on average spend about $20,000 per year on health care costs per year. Baby Boomers worry about healthcare costs more than any previous generation.  Sieg said that it is critically important that people purchase long-term insurance at as young age as possible.  People’s biggest concern is that they want peace of mind during retirement and long-term insurance will help.
  • Sieg said Boomers are radically changing retirement.  Seventy percent plan to work in retirement with about a half doing so by choice.  The optimistic side of this is that many are choosing to use the “longevity bonus” as an opportunity to use their new freedom to pursue careers that they didn’t have time for when they were younger. Many see it as an opportunity to reinvent themselves.
  • Current low interest rates are punitive for retirees.
  • Both Keene and Sieg are concerned that proposals are being circulated around Washington that reduce the incentive to save.  Most people need to increase their saving rate.

Bloomberg TV Video. “BofA’s Sieg on Retirement Planning” Video


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LIFESTYLE CONSIDERATIONS WHEN BUYING A SECOND HOME

Many Baby Boomers are using the real estate downturn as an opportunity to buy a second home.

Kayaking the East End of Sanibel

Kayaking the East End of Sanibel (Click to Enlarge)

Quality of life features should be considered before making such an important decision.

We have all daydreamed about living in an exotic location that we’ve seen in a movie or a National Geographic special. But if you want to enjoy your vacation home as long as possible, you need to consider practical details as well as dramatic scenery.

What to Look For in a Vacation Community

An Environment that Encourages Physical Activity

Research has shown that regular exercise is key to a vigorous old age and good mental and cognitive health. Exercise that has a social aspect to it encourages people to get out. Many boomers are enjoying kayaking and biking clubs, as well as recreation centers. A mild climate helps.

Kayaking Sanibel Canals

Kayaking Sanibel Canals (Click to Enlarge)

Opportunities for Intellectual Growth

The average lifespan is increasing, creating opportunities to learn new things. It also helps us stay adaptable in a world that is changing rapidly.

Purpose in Life

Research has shown that people live longer and have less depression if they pursue an activity that is meaningful to them.

Patrica Boyle, PhD, a neuropsychologist with the Rush University Medical Center found that people with a higher purpose in life had lower mortality rates among older adults. Research has even shown that volunteering has a positive impact on health.

A Curious Site While Kayaking on a Sanibel Canal (Click to Enlarge)

Opportunities for Social Interaction

People often find that they have to make more of a conscious effort to see people after they retire. Check out the availability of clubs and activities. Of course, if you want the grandchildren to visit, make sure there are fun activities for them, too.

Easily Accessible, Good Quality Healthcare

Let’s face it. We are going to need to visit the doctor more often and you never know when an emergency will happen.

Reasonable Travel Times and Cost

Keeping travel costs and distances as low as possible ensures that you will use your new home more.

Some Baby Boomers are choosing traditional warm weather vacation spots. Others are choosing to purchase second homes in college towns. College communities provide recreational and educational opportunities. Small college towns may also have an intergenerational atmosphere that many find appealing .

Keep an eye out for a future post on financial details to consider when buying a second home.

Sources

“Under the Microscope: Purpose in Life May Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease” Rush University Medical Center

“During the holidays and beyond, helping others will also help you stay healthy” Rush University Medical Center


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How The Heck Do I Invest My Money?

The crazy, bizarre events of the last few years have had me scratching my head as I tried to figure out how to invest our money.

The older we get, the scarier these decisions become because we have less time to make up for our mistakes. And who has the time to keep up with each new crisis and every speech politicians make? Not to mention the volatility caused by high-frequency trading.

Barry Ritholtz’s article “Keep it simple, avoid the pitfalls” has good suggestions for simplifying investment decisions. These strategies help tame some of the emotions that are involved with investing money.

Ways to Avoid Portfolio Mistakes

Avoid Investment Pitfalls

  •  Use passive investing versus active investing. In other words, instead of investing in individual stocks or hiring an active manager, use index ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds). My post “Resources to Help Boomers Decide if ETFs are Right for Their Portfolios” details a list of reasons investors choose to use these securities. It suggests articles that give basic information about Exchange-Traded Funds and helpful websites.
  •   Diversify across asset classes and keep expenses low. You hear this advice all the time but it is important—and hard to follow. We all want to pile into to the latest hot investment as the price is rising.
  • The suggestions of dollar cost averaging and “be mindful of valuation” seem to be contradictory but can be used in combination. I try to make myself add a little bit of exposure to an asset class that is underweighted in my portfolio as markets are dropping. I don’t try to buy at the very bottom since who knows when that will happen. I just figure, if a sector is down substantially, on average, I should be OK in five to seven years.
reduce stress of portfolio decisions

Tame Emotions

  • A few suggestions are particularly important for beginning investors:

Avoid venture capital and private equity

“Most IPOs are a sucker play.”

“Avoid new financial products”

Really, do you think the big money is going to give us individual investors a good deal?! These complex products are meant to humble, confuse, and separate us from our money. Warren Buffet is right when he repeatedly says that he only buys what he understands.

I recommend Ritholtz’s easy-to-read article. “Keep it simple, avoid the pitfalls” The Big Picture

Tightwad Tips: Small Recurring Savings Add Up

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I’m into saving with the least amount of work.  I just don’t have the patience for coupon clipping or other time-consuming money-saving habits.

Still, as we transition into a new stage of life, what is important to us evolves; our spending patterns should evolve as well.  Take the time to review spending to make sure that money isn’t leaking out of the budget unnoticed.  The way I look at it, if we take the time to do this, we increase our chances of securing what we need and of having the resources to do what we most value with our time.

For example, like many other baby boomers, my husband and I decided to buy a vacation home on the west coast of Florida in 2009.  I know, I know, I can already hear the jokes.  Florida–God’s waiting room.  But anyway, it’s been fun and a great place to stay active in the cold weather months.

But it’s not cheap supporting a second home and we need to save more for our retirement years.  So we had to be creative.  We rent out the house part-time. We combed through our routine expenses to see if we could shave a bit off each one.  Pruning expenses helps with saving now, but also helps us to get used to living on less. Looking at credit card and bank statements for bills enrolled in automatic payment plans was a good place to start. They have a way of getting more expensive, and it’s easy not to notice the increases when we have them on “set it and forget it.”  Here are a few of the items we were able to cut:

  • The cable bill. Like some lucky pre-retirees our kids are out on their own and self-sufficient now. (Whew!)  But we were still paying for premium channels that we rarely watched. I dropped the channels and now every month we save a bit.
  • You may be enrolled in a Web or print subscription that you no longer read. Cancelling those is an easy way to cut spending.
  • Call your wireless carrier. They may have a cheaper plan that fits your current calling patterns.  The company is not going to call you up to suggest that.

If you manage to save $75 a month, that adds up to $900 a year.  After five years, that’s $4,500—serious savings without a lot of work.

This gallery contains 6 photos


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Resources to Help Boomers Decide if ETFs are Right for Their Portfolios

After managing my family’s portfolio for thirty years, I can tell you that keeping up consistently with a portfolio of individual stocks for the average individual investor is about as easy as sticking to a Weight Watchers diet.  (Believe me, I can tell you about both!)  We start out with good intentions, but we get busy with other demands on our time.  On top of that, more and more information seems to be coming at us every day from more and more places on the globe.

Some try to simplify decisions by using mutual funds.  While mutual funds do have some advantages, the following drawbacks have driven me to use Exchange-Traded Funds:

  • The majority of active investment managers lag the market.
  • Costs can be high.
  • There can be negative tax consequences.

Here are a few resources for you to look through. They can help you decide if ETFs are right for you or serve as a starting point for a discussion with your financial manager.

The Exchange-Traded Funds For Dummies Cheat Sheet” summarizes many issues you should think about when considering ETFs. One of my favorite features of this article, found on Dummies.com, is the list of Websites for Up-To-date ETF Information.  I’ve used many of these sites to do research for myself.

The ETF Education Center at Yahoo! Finance lists a number of short, simple articles on ETF topics.  One helpful article, “Beware of Small ETF Trades” does a nice job of comparing costs of buying ETFs versus mutual funds.  The writer concludes that ETFs are not a good choice if you intend to make frequent, small purchases.

A website I like to use is the ETF Database.  The free section has easy-to-use tools such as sorts by country exposure, categories, and types. Articles tend to be more detailed and technical than those found at the Yahoo! ETF Education Center.

It seems like new ETFs are being launched all the time. The sources above should help you decide if ETFs are right for you.