Henrietta and Joseph Virchick My husband likes to tell a story about his father, Joseph Virchick, who was a pipefitter for the Standard Oil refinery in Bayonne, New Jersey, starting in the 1950s. It was a union job – the Teamsters – paying solid middle-class wages that supported his family in an upscale Levitt development with its own swimming pool. The point here is that this pipefitter with a high school degree lived about as well as his college-educated neighbors who commuted into nearby Manhattan. Virchick and his wife, Henrietta, who also worked, sent all three kids to college. When he retired in the 1980s, they had a pipefitter’s pension to supplement their Social Security. Today, only 6 percent of private-sector workers are unionized. Something else is going by the wayside along with unions and company pensions: a thriving middle class. Boston College economist Geoffrey Sanzenbacher argues in his new…

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Originally Published on https://squaredawayblog.bc.edu/

Kim Blanton Squared Away Blog Writer

I’m a veteran financial and economics reporter, most recently for The Boston Globe, who has also written for The Economist and other publications. I uncovered scandals during the savings and loan crisis in Texas back in the late 1980s, trekked around the world to cover finance and economics in the 1990s, and ventured into Boston neighborhoods to cover the recent subprime mortgage crisis.

While covering subprime mortgages, I began to see the importance of financial behavior and literacy. Wall Street excesses certainly fueled the crisis, but a poor understanding of complex financial products also played a major role. I interviewed dozens of homeowners in the grip of foreclosure who had agreed to home loans that they did not understand and that their brokers did not or could not explain to them. The consequences for these individuals – and the country – were disastrous.

I use the same dogged reporting skills to cover financial issues of growing importance today, including the personal crisis that concerns millions of baby boomers: Retirement.

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