This single act would help many Americans reach retirement savings goals — Robert Pozen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Robert Pozen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Robert Pozen

From MarketWatch

It’s true for everyone: despite our best intentions, we often fail to accomplish what we set out to do. When it comes to retirement investing, millions of Americans do not meet their own declared saving goals for retirement.

As a result, almost one-third of the U.S. population has no retirement savings at all,while many others will fall well short of what they will need for their Golden Years.

A solution can be found in the field of behavioral economics, which suggests ways tohelp Americans start saving. It seems that saving is a lot like dieting — small changes can help you reach your goal.

For example, many studies have shown that being automatically placed in a savings plan dramatically boosts participation by employees — even if they can opt out.

These studies show that when an automatic savings plan is introduced with an opt-out, 60% to 70% of employees remain in the plan. This may seem like a technical nuance, but there is a big difference between opting in by completing an application versus choosing not to opt out.

A plan designed to take advantage of this behavior is called an automatic IRA. In the same way that many people fail to start saving, those placed in an automatic IRA simply fail to stop saving by withdrawing from the plan. Automatic IRAs help people build their savings using the power of inertia.

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Join Senior Lecturer Bob Pozen for Twitter Chat on Underfunded Retiree Healthcare

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Robert Pozen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Robert Pozen

Underfunded/unfunded retiree healthcare is a topic that gets little attention in the finance media. All the attention has been paid to pension funds, but retiree healthcare is in worse shape. For example, if a pension fund is only 70 percent funded, it is considered extremely underfunded. And yet retiree healthcare plans are on average only four percent funded.

The question is, why?

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Americans forced to work through their retirement are missing out on an “encore adulthood” — Lotte Bailyn

MIT Sloan Professor of Management, Emerita Lotte Bailyn

MIT Sloan Professor of Management, Emerita Lotte Bailyn

From Quartz

How do today’s Baby Boomers—many of whom are still healthy and active—view their retirement? The traditional image of these so-called Golden Years involves leisure and freedom: mornings on the golf course, afternoons puttering in the garden, perhaps with some globetrotting and grandchildren thrown in for good measure. (Of course this option is only open to those who through pension plans or savings have the means for it.

In recent years, a second image of retirement, known as “aging in work,” has emerged. This model, borne in response to the economic need to protect Social Security and retain experienced workers’ knowledge, keeps retirement-age employees working in part-time or contract positions. It’s sold as win-win: Companies and the country benefit financially, but employees benefit, too, because it keeps their brains active and their social networks strong. The assumption is that continuing to work, though under better, more flexible conditions, is what makes people happy. The mainstream media back the model. Why Working Longer Is Good For Your Health and Get back to work! Working past “retirement age” is beneficial are just a few recent headlines.

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China’s pension problems will not be solved by more children — Robert Pozen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Robert Pozen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Robert Pozen

From Financial Times

On October 29, China adopted a policy of two children per family, instead of one. This change is, in large part, intended to mitigate the adverse demographic trend plaguing China’s social security system: the rapidly declining ratio of active to retired workers. The ratio is falling from over 6:1 in 2000 to under 2:1 in 2050.

However, the new two-child policy is not likely to have a big impact on the worker-retiree ratio, so China’s retirement system will remain under stress. To sustain social security, China needs to implement other reforms — moving from a local to a national system and expanding the permissible investments for Chinese pensions.

The one-child policy always had exceptions, such as for rural and ethnic communities. These exceptions were broadened in 2013 to cover couples where both were only children. Yet the birth rate did not take off.

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Tom Kochan: The Workforce

MIT Sloan Prof. Thomas Kochan
Photograph by Stu Rosner

From Harvard Magazine

An interview with Thomas A. Kochan, Bunker professor of management, MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and co-director of the MIT Institute for Work and Employment Research.

Harvard Magazine: You speak of a fundamental human-capital paradox in the way American employers and workers interact with each other.

Thomas Kochan: American corporations often say human resources are their most important asset. In our national discourse, everyone talks about jobs. Yet as a society we somehow tolerate persistent high unemployment, 30 years of stagnating wages and growing wage inequality, two decades of declining job satisfaction and loss of pension and retirement benefits, and continuous challenges from the consequences of unemployment on family life. If we really valued work and human resources, we would address these problems with the vigor required to solve them. Read More »