SmartMoney Blogs

A blog about living in and planning for retirement
  • Oct 19, 2012
    3:09 PM ET

    401(k) Plan Perks Grow, but Savings Still Lag

    Workers are getting a little more help from their employers when it comes to retirement saving, but many are still falling short in building their nest eggs.

    After suspending or slashing their matches of employees’ 401(k) contributions  during the recession, most companies have restored them. In 2011, the percent of companies making those matches increased…

  • Oct 17, 2012
    6:42 AM ET

    A price-cutting war in your 401(k)

    The jury is still out on Washington’s big effort to wring costs out of America’s 401(k) system by making the industry disclose those costs more clearly. But a wave of recent price cuts by big-name mutual fund companies suggests that the new reform efforts are gaining traction.

    In recent months, MFS, Putnam, John Hancock, Janus and Columbia separately began offering cheaper versions of many of their funds […]

  • Oct 17, 2012
    6:40 AM ET

    Where Does the $250,000 Income Divide Come From?

    It seems as though no one reads the Census annual publication Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States for anything but the number of people in poverty. But the parts I find most interesting are those pertaining to the level and distribution of income.  The numbers go to the heart of conversations about the “middle class” and the “rich.”

  • Oct 16, 2012
    6:18 PM ET

    States Try the Retirement-Plan Business

    It’s a major fiscal problem: More than 50% of working-age Americans have no retirement plan coverage at work. For years, policy makers have been searching for ways to address the problem by enticing small businesses to offer their employees 401(k)-style retirement plans.

    Now, legislators in a few states are taking a different tack, backing new initiatives that would shift the responsibility for setting up the retirement plan – and picking investment options – to the government.

  • Oct 16, 2012
    3:16 PM ET

    Obama vs. Romney on Retirement: Round Two

    Much to the chagrin of network TV programmers, tonight’s prime-time debate between President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won’t be the last. But since next Monday’s debate in Boca Raton will focus on foreign policy, tonight’s affair might offer voters their final opportunity to watch the two rivals go head-to-head on issues related to retirement — especially their conflicting views on Medicare.

    Since the first debate, in which Romney looked sharp and detail-oriented and the president often looked like a refugee from Madame Tussauds, most national polls have shown Romney erasing some or all of the early-fall lead Obama had with voters. Medicare is one of the few topics on which the president still holds a lead…

  • Oct 15, 2012
    3:16 PM ET

    For Social Security Recipients, A 1.7% Raise

    People collecting Social Security checks got some tough news to swallow on Tuesday morning: Their annual cost of living raises for 2013 will be among the smallest ever.

    The Social Security Administration announced today that the annual cost-of-living adjustment (or COLA) for next year will be 1.7%. For the average Social Security beneficiary, who gets about $1,130 per month, a 1.7% raise would increase the monthly check by $19.21.

  • Oct 12, 2012
    5:53 PM ET

    Medicare open-enrollment: Finding the right drug plan

    President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney are slugging it out over Medicare’s long-term future. But for the short term at least, health experts say enrollees mostly need to think about one area of the program: drug plans.

    Medicare’s open-enrollment period, when the 49 million Americans who use the program can make changes to their 2013 coverage, starts on Monday and runs through Dec. 7. And this time around, experts say the stakes are greater than in previous years…

  • Oct 12, 2012
    5:17 PM ET

    For many, “senior” phone plans don’t ring true

    At a time when many older consumers are rebuilding battered nest eggs and wrestling with health-care costs, the relatively low sticker price of a “senior” cell-phone plan can be alluring. But many of those plans reflect a pretty old-fashioned view of how people use their phones. They charge extra for email and other kinds of data — and that means many customers could wind up with much bigger bills than they expected.

  • Oct 11, 2012
    8:03 PM ET

    Class warfare in your 401(k)?

    The statement that a sandwich from the local sub shop should cost exactly $5 for everybody in America, rich and poor alike, is fairly uncontroversial. The statement that everybody in America, rich and poor alike, should pay exactly $10,000 a year in taxes might embroil the speaker in a pretty heated argument. Ian Salisbury’s story today on MarketWatch, regarding a debate over a heretofore obscure 401(k) fee, brings both hypotheticals to mind.

  • Oct 10, 2012
    4:04 PM ET

    Should ‘the 47%’ pay income taxes? Part 2: Retirement

    The main reasons that 47% of households do not pay federal income taxes are provisions in the tax code that (1) provide basic exemptions for subsistence-level income and (2) offer tax expenditures that wipe out any tax liabilities. These provisions mainly benefit senior citizens and low-income families with children, who account for the bulk of the non-tax-paying units.

    The implication of some of the ongoing political discussion is that the country would be better off if these provisions were changed and more units paid taxes. My blog post last week concluded that the current treatment of low-income families was probably about right. This blog post focuses on the elderly.

About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.