Workers, Retirees Are Feeling Better About Retirement Finances

Confidence in having enough money for golden years hits all-time high in latest survey

With the U.S. economy strong and stocks near record levels, retirees’ and workers’ confidence in having enough money for retirement have risen over the past year to all-time highs, according to a long-running survey released Tuesday.

According to the annual report by the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute, 82% of polled retirees are optimistic about their ability to live comfortably in retirement, up from 75% last year. The figure closely matches the levels recorded in 2005 and 2017 and is the highest since the survey started in 1990.

.. Mr. Copeland said the strong economy is likely responsible for this year’s optimistic results.“Typically, as the economy improves and workers become more confident in their current situation, it spills over to their confidence” about retirement, he said. In addition, he added, in a strong economy, many people are able to save more and take steps to plan for retirement, which also boost confidence.

.. The survey found that confidence among workers and retirees in having enough for both retiree medical and long-term-care expenses rose: 80% of retirees are very or somewhat confident they will have enough to cover medical expenses in retirement. That is up from 70% last year, when many retirees experienced a steep increase in the standard premium for Medicare Part B, which pays for doctor visits and other types of outpatient care. This year, the standard Part B premium for most people is $135.50, up from $134 last year. In 2017, many people paid about $109.

The survey found that confidence among workers and retirees in having enough for both retiree medical and long-term-care expenses rose: 80% of retirees are very or somewhat confident they will have enough to cover medical expenses in retirement. That is up from 70% last year, when many retirees experienced a steep increase in the standard premium for Medicare Part B, which pays for doctor visits and other types of outpatient care. This year, the standard Part B premium for most people is $135.50, up from $134 last year. In 2017, many people paid about $109.

.. Some 66% of American workers said they or a spouse have saved money for retirement. On one end, 40% of workers reported that the total value of their savings, excluding home equity, is below $25,000. In contrast, 23% said they have saved $250,000 or more.

Why so many Americans in the middle class have no savings

Could you come up with $2,000 in 30 days if you had to? As many as 40 percent of American families can’t, despite the improving economy. Among them is Neal Gabler, who is frequently broke despite his successful career as a writer. As part of a collaboration between The Atlantic and the PBS NewsHour, Judy Woodruff looks at why Gabler and so many other Americans are struggling with savings.

Paul Krugman Explains Trade and Tariffs

There’s no way to bring back all those steel plants and steel jobs, even if we stopped all imports. Partly that’s because a modern economy doesn’t use that much steel, partly because we can produce steel using many fewer workers, partly because old-fashioned open-hearth plants have been replaced by mini-mills that use scrap metal and aren’t in the same places. So this is all a fantasy.

.. You may remember Bernie Sanders using Denmark as an example. It’s a good one: much better wages, a much stronger social safety net, a mostly unionized work force. But Denmark is as open to world trade as we are. It’s domestic policies — from taxing and spending decisions to pro-labor policies in the service sector — that make the difference. Universal health care and the right to organize matter a lot more for workers than trade policy.

.. Why does the president of the United States have the authority to make decisions (such as imposing tariffs) that have significant impacts on the economy, trade, relationships with allies, etc. — with impunity, and with no input from Congress? What path should Congress be taking to restrict his powers.— Ricky, Saint Paul, Minn.

PK: Actually, Congress voluntarily limited its own role, to protect itself from special-interest politics: it votes big trade deals up or down on a single vote, then stays out of it.

.. However, these powers aren’t supposed to be used arbitrarily: there’s supposed to be an independent study of the issue, and the president acts on the basis of that study. What’s happening with Trump is an abuse of the process: the Commerce Department came up with an obviously bogus national security rationale for tariffs Trump wanted to impose for other reasons.

So we have a process that gives presidents some discretion, for pretty good reasons — but one that assumes that said presidents will act honestly and responsibly. It falls apart when you’re dealing with someone like Trump.

.. PK: President Oprah Winfrey, or whoever, can undo these tariffs with a stroke of the pen. However, we might get into a full-scale trade war before that happens, and in any case the U.S. has already lost its reputation as a reliable negotiating partner.

.. PK: Basically, we have persistent trade deficits because we have low savings and remain an attractive place for foreigners to invest. And as a result, the U.S., which was a creditor country before we began running persistent deficits since 1980, is now a net debtor.

But you want to keep some perspective. Our “net international investment position” — overseas assets less liabilities — is about -45 percent of G.D.P., which isn’t that big a number, all things considered. For example, it’s less than 10 percent of our national wealth.

And the idea that this gives foreigners a lot of power over America has it backward. On the contrary, in a way it makes them our hostages: China has a lot of money tied up in America. Suppose they tried to pull it out: the worst that could happen would be a fall in the dollar, which would be good for U.S. manufacturing and inflict a capital loss on our creditors.

Lot of things worry me; our foreign debt, not so much.