Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cynic’s “Cull”

I have always taken seriously the notion that news and information should be presented “straight”, and without commentary.

But there are times when it’s hard not to just scratch your head and say “huh?” or laugh out loud at some of the stuff that comes across our news desk.

Here’s a (somewhat cynical) sampling from just the past couple of weeks:

CONFIDENCE MIEN? A nationwide survey by Citi and conducted by Hart Research Associates found that 44% of investors report being confident in their ability to retire in financial security as they had planned (said another way, that’s nearly half who DO feel that confident) . More than a third (36%) said they might need to adjust their plans (so, do two-thirds not see any need to do so?), and (a mere) 16% said they are not confident in their ability to retire in financial security. Must be a lot of rich uncles out there…MORE

“NOTHING” DOING. Throughout one of the most stressful and volatile markets in memory, the vast majority of participants did exactly what they always do – nothing (though admittedly sometimes that’s the best thing to do). MORE

OUTSIDE INFLUENCES? Those with a workplace retirement plan are (also) more likely to be saving OUTSIDE of work (66% versus 57%, according to Transamerica). MORE

AVERAGE SAYS? Morningstar says that the 3.8% average target-maturity fund return in the first quarter was slightly below the 4% return during the fourth quarter of 2009 (what does an average of so many disparate offerings tell you, anyway?). Read MORE

FAMILIAR PHASES? MetLife reports that just over a third of plan sponsors say they are unfamiliar with at least some of the particular mechanics of how stable value works. (So apparently two-thirds are familiar with ALL of the mechanics?). Read MORE

CONTROL GROPE? Controlling benefits costs is now the top benefits objective for employers, edging out employee retention for the first time since 2006, according to MetLife. (Is that because costs are so high, or because these days folks aren’t worried about keeping workers?) MORE

WORK “OUT?” A recent report from Hearts & Wallets suggests a growing number of Americans now think of retirement not as when their portfolio reaches a certain level of assets, but when they are no longer able to find full-time employment (here’s hoping the former doesn’t come up before the latter is able to support that “decision.”). MORE


“FREE” FALL? (Still) leaving money on the table; Hewitt Associates notes that more than quarter of participants did not contribute enough to their 401(k) to receive their full employer match in 2009. MORE

STABLE, VALUED? Who needs diversified; While Hewitt Associates notes that premixed portfolios (including target-date and target-risk funds) now (finally) make up the largest portion of employees’ asset allocations (24.7%). The second-largest allocation was in GIC/stable-value funds (17.1%). MORE

KID "STUFF". More than four in 10 so-called “sandwich generation” parents (41%) continue to provide at least some financial support to their young adult children, according to the 2010 Families & Money Survey by Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. The biggest worries for mid-life parents are not being able to retire (29%), outliving their retirement money (22%) as well as not saving enough (22%). A distant fourth - the worry that their children won’t become financially independent (11%). (Personally, I’d be worried about not being able to retire BECAUSE my kids might not become financially independent). MORE

“UNDER” COVERED. A Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) report on the new health care reform law released Friday estimated that 1.4 million fewer Americans will be enrolled in employer coverage as a result. That’s a net number, by the way. The report goes on to note that about 14 million people may lose employer-provided coverage due to a variety of reasons, including more low-wage workers moving to an expanded Medicaid program and some employers, especially smaller companies and those with low average salaries, being “inclined to terminate” coverage (of course, no one knows exactly how this will play out (I suspect this is a conservative estimate), but IMHO 14 million losing their current employer-based coverage, while (ostensibly other) employers will be picking up (another) 13 million seems like a lot of disruption). MORE

So – what do you think? Did I miss any?

- Nevin E. Adams, JD

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