SmartMoney Blogs

A blog about living in and planning for retirement
  • Oct 10, 2012
    2:45 PM ET

    Explaining 401(k) costs to consumers

    How cheap or expensive is your 401(k) plan? While new government regulations require employers to disclose to employees the fees they pay, some are finding it difficult to decipher the total—or throw the disclosures away before reading them. (Employers, meanwhile, are having similar problems.)

    Now, a Redwood City, Calif. company is offering a free online tool that promises to quickly analyze an investor’s 401(k) plan and offer a ballpark idea of how much it costs.

  • Oct 10, 2012
    8:25 AM ET

    Should Seniors Bother Paying off Debt?

    At some point, is one too old to bother paying off a debt?

    Consider this Kansas couple saddled with $120,000 in debt on 13 credit cards. Jim Bostick, then 68, and his wife Francine, then 57, feared they’d spend their golden years in the red. Then “Jim was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I knew he wouldn’t be able to continue working,” Francine says in this interview with The National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “With the debt that we had there was no way we could pay it. I lay awake at night,” she says.

  • Oct 9, 2012
    5:02 PM ET

    401(k) paperwork gets mixed grades on clarity

    A lot is riding on the 401(k) industry’s new disclosure rules, which the Department of Labor hopes will give small business owners a plain-English explanation of what their retirement plans cost to run. But while some of these new forms are getting high marks, others appear to be adding to the confusion. (See our take here.)

    Just what do the new documents look like? To give readers a sense of the feel, we asked Boston-based consulting firm Dalbar to give us two examples, one which earned high marks and one which earned low marks.

  • Oct 8, 2012
    7:19 PM ET

    The Downside of an Older Workforce

    Market watchers welcomed last week’s surprisingly upbeat jobs report, but one overlooked trend may not bode so well for the economy, say some analysts: the graying of the workforce.

    Workers age 55 and over accounted for 21.4% of the employed population in the third quarter, according to data released last week by the U.S. Department of Labor. That’s the highest level on record, up from 18.4% in 2008 and 14.6% in 2002. These older worker also appear to be winning out over their younger peers in the current economic recovery: Since January 2010, these boomers have landed 70% of the new jobs created, an analysis by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas found.

  • Oct 8, 2012
    5:00 PM ET

    Poll: Where Medicare Ranks With Voters

    With the presidential election now just four weeks away, the health of Medicare and the program’s prospects will likely play a crucial role in voters’ decisions — and President Obama could be the primary beneficiary.

    The latest Health Tracking survey from the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 36% of Americans say Medicare is “extremely important” to their vote in the election, trailing only the economy (49%) and the federal budget deficit (41%)  among the public’s top priorities.

  • Oct 8, 2012
    8:11 AM ET

    Employers: Most Workers Don’t Make Good Use of 401(k)s

    Is a 401(k) retirement plan “adequate” if most workers who use it aren’t prepared for retirement?

    That’s the question raised by a new study from benefits consulting firm Towers Watson. The 401(k) system has come under a lot of criticism since the financial crisis hammered workers’ nest eggs. But the study, which polled about 370 large employers, suggests there may be a big gap between how managers and workers view the issue — and that managers don’t necessarily have a high opinion of the hoi polloi.

  • Oct 5, 2012
    5:31 PM ET

    Can Classes Give Older Workers an Edge?

    Older workers come to the table with experience, maturity and dedication, and unemployment rates for those 55 and over have been lower than the overall average for most of the recession. But older workers who do wind up unemployed often struggle to recover: The average duration of unemployment for older job seekers is now 56 weeks, compared with 37 weeks for younger workers, according to an analysis of the most recent job data by Sara Rix of the AARP Public Policy Institute.

    Partially in response to this trend, many colleges and universities have begun offering classes for older workers to help them improve their resumes, learn marketable skills and land jobs. The recently launched American Association of Community Colleges’ Plus 50 Initiative offers people over 50 an array of classes at community colleges across the nation, including workforce retraining courses.  The number of workforce retraining courses offered through this program more than doubled from the 2010-11 school year, with 395 total courses now offered; the number of older students enrolled jumped 75%, to 5,829, over that same period. Four-year colleges and universities are also offering courses that may be relevant for older workers.


  • Oct 4, 2012
    6:18 PM ET

    Is Retirement Making You Fat?

    If your jeans don’t button quite as easily as they used to and your shirts feel extra snug these days, you’re not alone: Thousands of older folks struggle with weight gain when they retire.  So, is retirement making you fat?

    At a time when out-of-pocket medical costs have been steadily rising for seniors, it’s a question that’s just as important to financial well-being as to physical health. And it’s possible that retirement is connected to adding extra pounds, according to several [...].

  • Oct 4, 2012
    5:07 PM ET

    Does Obamacare ‘Cut’ $716 Billion From Medicare?

    I mentioned before last night’s debate that Mitt Romney’s critique of President Obama’s health-care reforms might focus on the number $716 billion. I was unexpectedly prescient: By my count, based on a transcript, Romney cited the number 10 times, including twice in his closing statement. (“If the president were to be re-elected, you’re going to see a $716 billion cut to Medicare.”) The president never specifically rebutted this claim (then again, he didn’t rebut much of anything in what seemed like a fairly flat performance.) But is the Republican candidate using the statistic accurately?

  • Oct 4, 2012
    4:41 PM ET

    The Tax Perils of Working After 65

    Today’s society sends older workers signs—some subtle, others not so much—that it’s time to hang it up at age 65, says Olivia Mitchell, professor of business economics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Americans can start collecting Social Security benefits as early as age 62; they can start withdrawing money from their […]

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.