Happy Retirees? Maybe Not Why Life Satisfaction Isn’t Necessarily ‘U-Shaped’ After All

Happiness, experts say, is U-shaped: generally speaking, we are happy/full of life satisfaction as young adults but, as we reach middle age, we become less satisfied, with a trough in one’s early 50s; from this trough we rebound to ever-increasing satisfaction levels as we age. It’s remarkable, really, considering the physical infirmities we face, plus financial worries, loss of loved ones, and more. What explains this? We become wiser and we are able to see all of life’s ups and downs with a greater sense of perspective.

But what if that’s not true?

A new working paper by Peter Hudomiet, Michael D. Hurd and Susann Rohwedder, researchers at RAND Corporation, suggests an entirely different answer: older individuals have greater life satisfaction because the less-satisfied folk have been weeded-out. And by “weeded-out” I mean that they’re dead or otherwise unable to reply, because the likelihood of dying is greater for those who have less life satisfaction. When they apply calculations to try to strip out this impact, the effect is dramatic: rather than life satisfaction climbing steadily from the mid-50s to early 70s, then remaining steady, they see a steady drop from the early 70s as people age.

Here are the three key graphs (used with permission):

First, life satisfaction plotted by age without any special adjustments:

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Life satisfaction by age, unadjusted
Life satisfaction by age, unadjusted used with permission

Second, the difference in mortality between the satisfied and the unsatisfied:

Mortality by age and life satisfaction
Mortality by age and life satisfaction used with permission

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And, third, the same life satisfaction graph, adjusted to take into account the impact of the disproportionality of deaths:

Life satisfaction adjusted for death rates
Life satisfaction adjusted for death rates used with permission

In this graph, the blue line represents the unadjusted outputs from their calculations, the orange line is smoothed, and the grey line adds in demographic, labor market and health controls, to strip out the impact of, for example, people in poor health being less satisfied and try to isolate the impact solely of age.

Here are the details on this calculation.

The data they use for their analysis comes from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a long-running survey of individuals age 51 and older at the University of Michigan, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging. It is a longitudinal study; that is, it surveys the same group of people every two years in order to see how their responses change over time, adding in new “refresher cohorts” to keep the survey going. The survey asks about many topics, including income, health, housing, and the like, and in 2008, the survey also began to ask life satisfaction, on a scale of 1 to 5 (”not at all satisfied” to “completely satisfied”).

One simple way of analyzing the data is to look at how life satisfaction ratings vary based on survey participants’ characteristics. The average reported life satisfaction of those between ages 65 – 74 is 3.91, just slightly below “4 – very satisfied.” But those who rate their health as “poor” average out to 3.13, or not much more than “3 – somewhat satisfied,” and those who rate their health as “excellent” average to 4.34. Those who have 2 or more ADL (activities of daily living) limitations some out to an average of 3.32 vs. 3.97 for those with no such limits. Those who are in the poorest quarter of the survey group come out to 3.7 vs. 4.07 for the wealthiest quarter. (See the bottom of this article for the full table; this table and the following graphs are used with permission.)

But here’s the statistic that throws a monkey-wrench into the data:

“On average, the 2-year mortality rate [that is, from one survey round to the next] is 4.4% among those who are very or completely satisfied with their lives, while it is 7.3% (or 66% higher) among those who are not or somewhat satisfied with their lives.”

As a result, “those who are more satisfied with their lives live longer and make up a larger fraction of the sample at older ages.”

Now, this does not say that being pessimistic about one’s life causes one to be more likely to die. Nor does it say that this pessimism is justified by being in ill-health and at risk of dying. But this statistical connection, as well as further analysis of survey drop-outs for other reasons (such as dementia) is the basis for a regression analysis which results in the graph above.

What’s more, the original “inventor” of the concept of the life satisfaction curve, David Blanchflower, published a follow-up study just after this one. One of their key concepts is the notion of using “controls” to try to identify changes in life satisfaction solely due to age rather than changes in income over one’s lifetime, for example, or other factors, and there has been extensive debate about whether or to what degree this is appropriate, given that the reality of any individual’s life experience is that one does experience changes in marital and family status, employment status, and the like.

Having received pushback for this concept, they defend it but also insist that the U-shape holds regardless of whether “controls” are used or not. At the same time, Blanchflower is quite insistent that the “U” is universal across cultures, though (see my prior article on the topic) it really seems to require quite some effort to make this U appear outside the Anglosphere, which is all the more interesting in light of the John Henrich “WEIRDest people” contention (see my October article) that various traits that had been viewed by psychologists as universally-generalizable are really quite distinctive to Western cultures and, more distinctively, the United States.

But here’s the fundamental question: why does it matter?

On an individual level, to believe that there is a trough and a rebound offers hope for those stuck in a midlife rut. It’s a form of self-help, the adult version of the “it gets better” campaign for teenagers.

On a societal level, the recognition of a drop in life satisfaction for the middle-aged might be explained, by someone with the perspective of the upper-middle class, as the result of dissatisfaction with a stagnating career, failure to achieve the corner office, the challenge of shepherding kids into college, and the like. In fact, when I wrote about the topic two years ago, that’s how the material I read generally presented the issue.

But Blanchflower’s new paper recognizes greater stakes: “These dips in well-being are associated with higher levels of depression, including chronic depression, difficulty sleeping, and even suicide. In the U.S., deaths of despair are most likely to occur in the middle-aged years, and the patterns are robustly associated with unhappiness and stress. Across countries chronic depression and suicide rates peak in midlife.” (In the United States, among men, this is not true; men over 75 have the highest suicide rate.)

And what of the decline in life satisfaction among the elderly?

The premise that the elderly become increasingly satisfied with their lives as they age is a very appealing one, not just because it provides hope for us individually as we age. It serves as confirmation of a more fundamental belief, that the elderly are a source of wisdom and perspective on life. Although it is Asian cultures which are particularly known for veneration of the elderly, the importance of caring for those in need is just as much a moral imperative in Western societies, even if without the same sense of “veneration” or of valuing them to a greater degree than others in need.

Consider, after all, that the evening news likes to feature stories of oldsters running marathons or competing in triathlons or even just having a sunny outlook on life; no one likes to think of the grumpy grandmother or grandmother from one’s childhood as representative of “old age.” In this respect, “old folks are more satisfied with life” provided an easy to make the elderly more “venerable.” Hudomiet’s research might force us to think a bit harder.

As always, you’re invited to comment at JaneTheActuary.com!

Full table of impact of demographic characteristics on life satisfaction:

Impact of demographic characteristics on life satisfaction
Impact of demographic characteristics on life satisfaction used with permission

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Elizabeth Bauer

Elizabeth Bauer

Yes, I’m a nerd, and an actuary to boot. Armed with an M.A. in medieval history and the F.S.A. actuarial credential, with 20 years of experience at a major benefits consulting firm, and having blogged as “Jane the Actuary” since 2013, I enjoy reading and writing about retirement issues, including retirement income adequacy, reform proposals and international comparisons.

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Wes Moss Money Matters

So, are you setting yourself up for true happiness as a retiree? Sure, you’re planning the money piece, and that’s important. But, there’s also the personal piece of the retirement equation that’s just as important as the money part. Read more: https://www.wesmoss.com/news/7-skills… The 4% Rule: https://www.wesmoss.com/news/the-new-… Retirement Calculator: https://www.yourwealth.com/retirement… Send me your questions directly at https://bit.ly/3dPKcvd (contact box in top right corner) You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think https://bit.ly/3kiRhXJ Money Matters with Wes Moss podcast https://spoti.fi/3jk9wL8 or on Apple Podcasts https://apple.co/3kwKvhj Twitter: https://bit.ly/2HqnWfe Facebook: https://bit.ly/3kvrHi4 Check out my website for more financial tools and articles: https://bit.ly/3dPKcvd Please note, this information is provided to you as a resource for informational purposes only and should not be viewed as investment advice or recommendations. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. There is no guarantee offered that investment return, yield, or performance will be achieved. There will be periods of performance fluctuations, including periods of negative returns. Past performance is not indicative of future results when considering any investment vehicle. This information is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance, or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. This information is not intended to, and should not, form a primary basis for any investment decision that you may make. Always consult your own legal, tax, or investment advisor before making any investment/tax/estate/financial planning considerations or decisions.

How To Find A Full-Time Job When You’re Over 50

Executive talking on mobile phone at desk

With unemployment at all-time lows, now might be the best time for you to be looking for a full-time job. The challenges, however, are greater if you’re over 50 years old.

According to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average it takes those 55 to 64 two weeks longer to find a job compared to those 20 years and older. (The news is worse if you’re 65 and older, where this average duration of unemployment is 10 weeks longer.)

It seems the idea of early retirement hasn’t caught on with those in their 50s (and even beyond).

“Our research shows that experienced workers are staying on the job longer or looking for a job for two reasons,” says Susan K. Weinstock, Vice President, Financial Resilience Programming at AARP. “Financially, they need the money, and, secondly, they like their job and find it fulfilling and want to keep working.”

Bankrate regularly surveys workers regarding their financial circumstances. Its data confirms what AARP found for those working well past age 50.

“When Bankrate asked Americans who were neither retired nor permanently disabled about their retirement savings, more than half said they were behind where they should have been,” says Mark Hamrick, Senior Economic Analyst at Bankrate.com. “For members of Generation X (age 39-54), the percentage was 63% and Boomers (age 55-73), 54% said they were behind on their retirement savings. No doubt many people who would otherwise be candidates to retire seek to remain in the workforce because they feel they need income, or to further boost their savings. Others may choose to work as a means of remaining engaged and active.”

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If you’re like many older workers, you may prefer to retain your current position. But what if your present employer can’t accommodate you? It may have been decades since you last tried to look for a new job. What has changed since then? What do you have to do different today to land full-time employment?

Bryan Zawikowski has been a recruiter for 25 years and is the vice president and general manager of the military transition division for Lucas Group. Forbes ranked Lucas Group as one of the top 10 executive search firms in the nation in 2019. Zawikowski’s team works with many people who find themselves either changing careers or looking for new jobs later in life. He shares the following advice:

“What are best practices?”

·        To thine own self be true: “Don’t try to hide your age. It doesn’t work, and you end up looking either vain or foolish—maybe both.”

·        Polish up your online presence: “Your LinkedIn profile should be very professional, including the photograph.”

·        Emphasize your real-world experience: “No ‘functional’ resumes. They end up in the trash.”

·        Brevity is the soul of wit: “Maximum 2-page resume. The further back in your work history you go, the less detail there should be.”

“What are the easiest ways to make it happen?”

·        Recalculate: “Be financially prepared to take a step back in compensation (either scale back your lifestyle or be prepared to dip into savings if need be).”

·        Re-calibrate: “Be emotionally and mentally prepared to work for someone younger and perhaps more talented than you.”

·        Circulate: “Network with former classmates, former work colleagues, friends and acquaintances that know something about your desired career path.”

·        Captivate: “Have a GREAT story about why you are interested in this new career field and why you’d be good at it.”

“What are the do’s and don’ts?”

·        DO something you enjoy: “Pick a career that you are really into, something that energizes you and somewhere you look forward to going to work most days.”

·        DO maintain your health: “Stay physically active. You don’t have to be a marathon runner, but do something to keep your energy level up.”

·        DO continue to learn: “Read as much as you can about your new career field.”

·        DON’T lie: You can’t “pretend to be an expert at something just because you were good at something else.”

·        DON’T assume the status quo: You’ll be disappointed if you “think you will be able to make a lateral move from where you are in your current career field.”

·        DON’T be unrealistic: You’ll only hurt yourself more if you “sacrifice more than you can afford to in terms of compensation. Retirement isn’t too far away and you don’t want to jeopardize that.”

You are the master of your own destiny. If you want to find a job, you can. No matter what your age.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I am a nationally recognized award-winning writer, researcher and speaker. Among the seven books I’ve written include From Cradle to Retire: The Child IRA, Hey! What’s My Number? – How to Increase the Odds You Will Retire in Comfort, and A Pizza The Action: Everything I Ever Learned About Business I Learned By Working in a Pizza Stand at the Erie County Fair. Currently serving as President of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and with more than 1,000 articles published in various publications, I appear regularly in the national media. A “parallel” entrepreneur, I’m actively running a handful of small family-owned businesses, so I have hands-on experience on the things I write about. A trained astrophysicist, I hold an MBA and have been designated a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. I invite you to share your thoughts and story ideas with me through my web-site, email, or any of the usual social media platforms whose links appear below.

Source: How To Find A Full-Time Job When You’re Over 50

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Do Retirees Hate Annuities & Insurance Companies?

Investors have been buying fixed annuities for a long time now for the added security they can offer. The current best interest rate on a five-year fixed annuity is 3.9% compared to the current 2% rate of a bank CD.

Fixed index annuities are paying income streams with a guaranteed rate as high as 6% over much longer time periods. These annuities earn their interest from participation with stock or bond market indexes. When the market is up, you earn a percentage of the gain in what is known as a participation rate strategy.

An example might be if the chosen index were up 10% for the year and your contract paid 70% participation, you would earn 7%. If the index selected should go down 10% for the year, you are guaranteed not to have any market losses ever. There are additional strategies for index annuities to pay interest, and each strategy has its limitations compared to the actual index earnings. As always, make sure you read the fine print.

In addition to guarantees and income provided by these products, there are additional tax strategies used to increase your net return. It’s one thing to earn interest, but it’s another to keep it.

The tax system is a huge factor in retirement planning. For example, if your account is an IRA and you elect to have a guaranteed income rider on the index annuity contract, you and your spouse will have income guaranteed as long as either is alive. At the time both of you have passed, the company would pay any remaining balance to your beneficiaries.

But what if you live a long time taking a guaranteed increased income but the stock market indexes do not go up during that period? The insurance company still has to pay you your increased income even if your account runs out of money. In this example, the year your account runs out of money, you convert the remaining small amount to a Roth IRA. All future income would be considered Roth IRA income with a “zero-tax liability.” You do need to make sure you have a Roth IRA currently in order to do this strategy.

One of the least-known tax strategies is to take regular non-qualified money and purchase a fixed index annuity where the income paid out each month is, depending on your age, approximately 70% tax-free. There is a limit on how much you can put into a Roth IRA to obtain tax-free income, but this strategy has no limit. An example might be that you deposit $1 million into this type of account.

Immediately, if you were drawing $100,000 income each year under this strategy, you would only have to pay taxes on about $30,000 with the remaining $70,000 being tax-free. Who doesn’t like the sound of that?

The final piece of the puzzle is longevity planning. What if you outlive your savings? There is a form of life insurance that will advance the death benefit to pay for home health care, nursing home care, and even offer advanced lump sums of money if you are diagnosed with a critical condition. Also, under current law, the advance is all tax-free.

What about the pensions that go away when the breadwinner dies? What about the potential of decreased Social Security income? The life insurance mentioned above can also provide enough money to replace the lost pension and Social Security dollars providing for your soulmate’s standard of living in the manner in which you want them to have. Your final love letter, so to speak.

People are living longer, which has driven down the cost of this type of insurance, making it possible to provide for you and your spouse. Critical care, chronic care, and loss of your income can all be addressed with one properly structured insurance contract.

Insurance company products can offer stability that most retirees want and need. With proper planning, you can reduce or even eliminate taxes and have retirement income you can enjoy for the rest of your life. You won’t have to worry about running out of income or keeping up with inflation.

So back to the beginning question – do retirees hate annuities and insurance companies? I believe it is safe to say at the rate these products are being purchased by retirees, they actually love insurance companies. How things have changed from the past generations.

This content was brought to you by Impact PartnersVoice. Insurance and annuities offered through Donald W. Owens, OH Insurance License #16525. DT# 1023595-1220.

Since 1980, Don Owens has strived to offer the highest standard of integrity assisting clients in retirement growth and income strategies. His mission is to offer straightforward advice to his clients in and transitioning into retirement to build a financial plan that emphasizes safety and security in the most tax-efficient manner. Don has developed his business by nurturing and maintaining close relationships with each of his clients. He understands how important it is for you to be able to trust your financial professional and is guided by his clients’ objectives and future needs. Don has earned the designations of ChFC, CLU, LUTCF, and FSCP. He is also proud to have received an A rating from the Better Business Bureau. Don and his wife, Kim, have three children, four grandchildren, and two dogs. Family is important in the Owens household, and they enjoy spending time with their large extended family, swimming, barbecuing, and creating memories and a lot of meals together

Source: Do Retirees Hate Annuities & Insurance Companies?

Affording Health Insurance Before Medicare

Retirement: Don’t Make These 3 Big Savings Mistakes

If you don’t use your employer’s 401(k), you’re committing one of the worst retirement mistakes possible, according to Cameron McCarty, president of Vivid Tax Advisory Services.

“What I want viewers and our clients to do is to contribute as much as they can,” McCarty told Yahoo Finance recently.

The days of pension plans are fizzling out. Instead, workers are offered 401(k)s — employer-sponsored retirement plans that allow employees to contribute a portion of their paycheck before taxes to retirement savings. These contributions are invested and, over time, grow into a nest egg you can tap when you retire.

To nudge workers, a third of employers auto-enroll their employees into a 401(k) plan, a two-fold increase from a decade ago, according to a recent analysis from Fidelity Investments.

But simply signing up doesn’t merit a pat on the back, McCarty said. Younger workers should max out their annual contributions, if possible, and not doing so is the second mistake McCarty sees.

For 2019, that means you should contribute as close to the $19,000 annual limit as you can. The limits, determined by the Internal Revenue Service, typically change every year, and are usually announced in November for the upcoming tax year.

The third mistake to avoid, according to McCarty: Not taking the money your employer will contribute to your retirement.

Some companies will match your annual 401(k) contributions up to a certain amount. The average employer match is 4.7%, according to Fidelity.

“I don’t want my clients or your viewers to be the 20% of Americans that make this big mistake,” said McCarthy in a conversation with Yahoo Finance. “And that’s taking advantage of the free money your employer is giving you.”

By: Dhara Singh

Source: Retirement: Don’t make these 3 big savings mistakes

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11 Disruptive Questions Millennials’ Singles’ Day Poses For Your Retirement And For Business

It’s the biggest shopping day on the planet. Alibaba alone chalked up $38 billion in sales for 2019. No, it’s not a religious, patriotic holiday, or even the one time biggest online shopping day of the year, Black Friday – it’s Singles’ Day in China and much of the world. But what’s good for Alibaba, may not be good for your retirement and many industries.

Started as Bachelors Day by students at China’s Nanjing University in 1993 as a kind of ‘anti-Valentines’ day to celebrate being single, the day evolved into Singles’ Day. November 11 or 11/11 was chosen because it provided the powerful symbolism of four 1’s.

And, while the celebration of being single may have begun in China, the lifestyle and business of ‘singledom’ is spreading fast. Retailers in Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America are all riding the singles wave. According to Forbes writer Sergei Klebnikov, Adobe projects that nearly 25% of retailers plan to offer a Singles Day special. Amazon, Apple, Bed Bath & Beyond, Estee Lauder, Foot Locker, Happy Socks and countless other retailers are all too happy to jump on the singles lifestyle bandwagon.

Today In: Money

But, there is more to Singles’ Day then a retail push. Singlehood points to a larger disruptive demographic trend that is shaping lifestyles, your retirement, and the even the markets we invest in today.

According to Pew Research, 61% of young Americans under the age of 35 are without a partner. Up sharply from 33% in 2004. Likewise, the number of people living alone in Canada has doubled over the last three decades. In Europe more than half of the households in Paris, Munich, and Oslo are households of one. Entire nations, such as Sweden and Denmark have more than half of their populations living alone.

So what might this new demographic landscape mean for lifestyles, retirement, and countless industries?

To continue the theme of Singles’ Day on 11/11, here are 11 questions about life tomorrow in a world of one.

1.    Who will buy the homes of retirees today that are typically two, three or more bedrooms? Will homes with one bedroom become the new normal and homes with two bedrooms be considered a spatial luxury – and those with three-plus simply a waste? How might real estate developers rethink communities that are predominantly households of one?

2.    How many wine glasses will you buy? Watch out household goods industry, rather, than buying a set of eight, or even four glasses, as well as all the other things that stock household cabinets and closets – we may buy only one or two of what we need. For those retirees thinking they are going to downsize by handing off that china set with service for 12 to their kids – good luck. As I observe in a previous article, no one wants your stuff.

3.    Who will you buy luxury gifts for? Singles’ Day certainly shows that people are willing to buy things, but will they buy luxury? Will luxury brands begin crafting a new vision of the virtue of treating yourself in contrast to decades of sales based upon treating that special someone as well as marking engagements and anniversaries? Perhaps a whole new socially acceptable celebration of buying your own watch for your retirement will become a new normal.

4.    Is a party of one the new normal for leisure? Will restaurants work harder to make a retired single more comfortable and not feel alone? Hotels, cruise ships, and theme parks have traditionally marketed to couples and families. What will leisure look like in a world of one?

5.    Will being a pet parent mean more than ever? If a partner is not moving in, will pets become your significant other in youth and later life, thereby getting an even bigger boost of wallet share?

6.    How will you share the burden? Managing a household has many moving parts. Typically tasks are split between a couple by conscious decision and often by default. Will retired singles over time learn to do it all, or will there be a growth industry for services once shared with that special someone?

7.    Will there be even fewer children? The birthrate continues to tumble. The industrialized world, as well as many industrializing nations, are seeing a record drop in the number of children being born each year. Will the celebration of one, mean none?

8.    Does singlehood provide greater career freedom? If there is only one person in a household, does that reduce the fear of losing a job or easily moving from one position that does not quite fit? Employers may find a new mobility in single employees who do not need to worry, nor manage, the financial risks of supporting multi-person household. However, will that newfound freedom in youth, present a longer-term financial risk in retirement for singles?

9.    How will you finance retirement alone? Having a partner may increase household consumption and costs – but it may also provide more income and retirement savings. The longevity risk of ones life span outliving ones wealth span may be greater for lifelong singles.

10. Who will care for you? Most of us, at some point, will require care in older age. A partner, or adult child, typically provides family care to an elderly loved one. In a world where neither may exist, does that present a new challenge for individuals planning retirement – and perhaps a new demand for private and public services?

11. Does alone necessarily mean lonely? While it is possible to be alone, but not lonely, will a society with a growing number of households of one portend an even greater rise in the global epidemic of loneliness and social isolation for young and old alike?

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I lead the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab (agelab.mit.edu). Researcher, teacher, speaker and advisor – my work explores how global demographics, technology and changing generational attitudes are transforming business and society. I teach in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies & Planning and the Sloan School’s Advanced Management Program. My new book is The Longevity Economy: Unlocking the World’s Fastest Growing, Most Misunderstood Market (Public Affairs, 2017) . Follow me on Twitter @josephcoughlin.

Source: 11 Disruptive Questions Millennials’ Singles’ Day Poses For Your Retirement And For Business

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Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang discusses Singles’ Day and the company’s strategy.
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