While Americans are living longer and healthier lives, they also are facing more financially fragile situations. Uncertainty related to financial health in the later years of life has become more common. Lower, less predictable incomes among those retiring within 10 years has resulted in difficulty paying their bills. This group also reports a lower net worth. In 2013, the typical 56- to 61-year-old had an average of $17,000 in retirement savings. This lower level of net worth is partially the result of higher levels of debt than the previous generation. This debt is in the form of higher mortgages and education loans, including amounts owed for their children’s education.
To address these concerns, several policy actions are proposed:
- Requiring and supporting strategies for to build effective financial capability, including coaching and workforce development programs.
- Tax policies and other incentives that encourage savings and investment among lower-income and lower-wealth families.
- Policies to increase educational opportunities without excessive debt.
- Efforts for protection from financial difficulties caused by medical catastrophe.
- Policies for improved housing stability of both owners and renters.
For additional information on financial security and longevity, click here.
- Have students interview people to determine common actions used to save for retirement.
- Have students create a presentation to suggest action for improved financial security for various income levels.
- What are some financial pressures faced by households as people approach retirement age?
- What actions might government and business take to reduce the financial pressures of people approaching retirement age?
The Center for Financial Services Innovation has identified eight indicators to measure financial health. These measurements can serve as a framework for guiding individuals and financial service providers toward an improved quality of life for consumers.
The eight indicators of financial health, presented in four categories, are:
- Difference between income and expenses
- Percent of bills that are paid on time and in full
- Number of months of living expenses in liquid account balances
- Amount of one’s long-term savings, assets, and investments
- Debt-to-income ratio
- Credit score or credit quality tier
- Type and extent of insurance coverage
- Behaviors that demonstrate future financial orientation
For additional information on financial health indicators, click here.
- Have students ask people to describe what is meant by “financial health.”
- Have students create a list of actions that might be taken to achieve financial health.
- What are additional factors that might be considered when measuring a person’s financial health?
- What actions are you taking to achieve financial health?
An estimated one-third of recently married couples are surprised by the financial situation of their spouse. A similar number (36 percent) are not aware of their partner’s spending habits. Based on a study by Experian Plc, only 40 percent knew the credit score of their partner.
Men more often hid money from spouses. About 20 percent of men had secret bank accounts about which their partners didn’t know; compared to 12 percent of women. Regarding the maximum amount that they would spend before consulting with their spouse, men replied $1,259; women said $383. Hidden financial information can have a significant adverse effect on the relationship of a newly married couple.
For additional information on newlywed finances, click here.
For additional information on the survey results, click here.
- Have students survey newly-married people about their disclosure of financial information to their spouse.
- Have students create a list of problems that might arise between newly-married people who do not inform their spouse about their personal financial information.
- What financial information would be most important for newly-married people to disclose to their spouses?
- How could a lack of disclosure of financial information to a spouse create relationship difficulties?
Online selling, personal taxi services such as Uber, and renting a spare room to tourists, are examples of an increasing number of people generating or supplementing their incomes by trading goods and services online. This trend is often replacing traditional employment.
Measurement of the “gig economy” (working outside a formal work environment with temporary, short-term employment by independent workers) is difficult. Many situations are not reported in current labor statistics. In recent years, the fastest growth for self-employed workers has been in hairdressing, cleaning, and management consulting. While these services may be in the gig economy, this trend may also indicate growing formal self-employment in these fields.
Gig economy activities may start as temporary work due to a lay-off or a need to supplement household income. However, as time goes by, these self-employment positions can become a person’s ongoing employment status.
For additional information on the gig economy, click here.
- Have students describe examples of the “gig economy.”
- Have students explain the “gig economy” to others (including different generations) and get their reactions.
- What factors influenced the development of the gig economy?
- How might the gig economy affect a person’s financial planning activities?
“Income tax identity theft is a huge problem that is only getting worse.”
According to a 2015 report of the General Accountability Office (GAO), the IRS paid out $5.8 billion in bogus refunds to identity thieves for the 2013 tax year–the latest year that complete data are available. To make matters worse, the actual dollar amount is probably higher because of the difficulty of knowing the amount of undetected fraud.
To combat the problem, the IRS announced a new cooperative effort between the IRS, state tax administrators, and private tax preparation services to fight income tax identity theft. A number of specific steps are outlined in this article. Unfortunately, the experts admit there are additional problems to stopping identity thieves that are not addressed in the new program. In fact, most experts agree that additional regulations are required to coordinate employer reporting of employee wages with Social Security reporting requirements.
For individual taxpayers, bogus tax returns become a very real and personal problem if their social security number is stolen and their personal tax return is flagged by the IRS as suspicious. To help resolve disputed tax returns, the office of the National Taxpayer Advocate, which is an internal watchdog for consumers at the IRS, suggests that you file a police report and then mail a paper tax return with an attached Form 14039–Identity Theft Affidavit with a copy of the police report. In addition to additional documentation, expect that it may take on average 278 days to resolve a claim if you become a victim of income tax identity theft.
For more information, click here.
You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to
- Discuss the importance of protecting your personal identity and especially your social security number.
- Stress the importance of monitoring your credit report and all financial documents that could indicate your personal identity has been stolen.
- What steps can you take to protect your personal identity?
- There are a number of credit monitoring services that will help protect your identity. Most charge $75 to $100 or more a year to monitor your financial and personal information. Do you feel this service is worth the cost?
A recent study from the Federal Reserve reports that almost half of consumers are not able to come up with $400 to cover an emergency expense. In contrast, the study of 5,800 Americans reported that almost one-third of Americans believed their income would increase in the upcoming year. However, many appear to be living one big expense away from financial disaster.
Other findings of the study include:
- Forty-seven percent didn’t have the cash to pay for a $400 emergency expense.
- One in five participants in the study reported spending amounts greater than their income.
- “Underemployment” is a major concern for workers since part-time work often means a lack of benefits, especially health care coverage.
- Nearly one in five Americans has nothing set aside for retirement; 39 percent of report that they have either given no thought or only a little to planning for retirement.
Despite these difficulties, Americans have seen a “mild” improvement in how they view their economic well-being since the recession ended. About 40 percent reported they were either “somewhat” or “much better” off than they were in 2009.
The report reflected that the recovery is only benefiting some. About half of college-educated respondents said they are better off than in 2009; only 37 percent of those without a bachelor degree reported an improved economic situation.
For additional information on the financial fragility of Americans, click here.
- Have students talk to various people about their economic situation compared with five years ago.
- Have students create survey questions that might be used to measure the financial condition of a household.
- What are common measurements of personal economic well-being?
- How might a person take action to improve personal economic well-being?
While science, math, and history are vital for academic and career success, many high school graduates lack knowledge of basic money management skills. Along with other subjects, effective financial education should be rigorous, relevant, meets standards, and have engaging learning experiences. Those teaching personal finance should be well-qualified and supported by adequate resources.
In recent years, financial education is referred to as financial literacy or financial capability. In the past, these topics were taught in math, social studies, business and, consumer science (previously called home economics) courses. More recently, an extensive number of free or low-cost financial literacy programs and resources have been developed. Financial institutions, businesses, government agencies, professional associations, and non-profit organizations have collaborated in this effort. The National Standards in K-12 Personal Finance Education, published by the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, provides teachers with a guidance.
For additional information on teaching financial literacy, click here.
Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy
- Have students ask people to describe their definition of “financial literacy.”
- Have students develop a learning activity to effectively teach financial literacy.
- What are considered to be the main elements of financial literacy?
- Why is financial literacy important for all students?
The investment professional (or team of professionals) you decide to work with will depend largely on your investing goals and the types of products and services that can help you meet those goals. Your financial needs, and the professionals you work with, are likely to change over your lifetime. The amount of money you have to invest and your investing priorities also will likely change. What doesn’t change, though, is the best way to find help. FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), an independent not-for-profit organization authorized by Congress to protect Americans’ investors, offers the following key steps for choosing financial professionals:
- Identify your financial needs, starting with your goals.
- Understand the different types of people or firms you could work with, and what each can (and cannot) offer.
- Search for possible candidates.
- Check the work background and disciplinary history of your finalists.
- Make sure you read and understand any paperwork you’re asked to fill out or sign.
Searching for Possible Candidates
One place to start is by talking with your friends, neighbors, relatives, and colleagues—especially those who have some experience as individual investors. Here’s what to ask:
- What are the names of the investment professionals you have used?
- How long have you done business with those individuals?
- How much or how little have you relied on their advice?
- Have you ever had a problem with that professional? And, if so, how well and how quickly was the matter resolved?
- How often does your investment professional contact you? Different people like to interact in different ways and on different schedules, so this question can help assess whether the relationship would work for you.
For more information, click here.
- Ask students if they are working with an investment advisor. And if so, what is their experience with him/her.
- Did students check if their investment advisor is registered with a state, the SEC, or FINRA? If so, in what capacity?
- Does it matter if a professional investment advisor holds relevant professional designations? Why or why not?
- How are the investment advisors compensated? Should you choose a fee-only advisor? Why or why not?
- Is it important to ask your investment advisor for a list of clients you can contact as references?
About three in ten Americans have no emergency savings, according to a study conducted by Bankrate.com. This number has increased in recent years, mainly due to the lack of growth in household income. Without an emergency fund, people tend to encounter even greater financial difficulties. A person will often use high-interest debt to cover unexpected expenses. In addition to the 29 percent with no savings, another 21 percent have less than three months worth of expenses saved.
For additional information on emergency savings, click here.
- Have students ask several people who their might cope with a financial emergency.
- Have students create a plan for creating a emergency savings fund.
- What are methods that might be used to cope with a financial emergency?
- How might a person be encouraged to create an emergency fund?