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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.

Recent Content

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Mortgage Rejections Surge after Age 50

You’re over 50. You have built up a lot of equity in your home, and your life savings is finally gaining some critical mass. And yet, your odds of being rejected for a refinancing mortgage start goi…

You’re over 50. Yo…

You’re over 50. You have built up a lot of equity in your home, and your life savings is finally gaining some critical mass. And yet, your odds of being rejected for a refinancing mortgage start going up rapidly after age 50 and really accelerate around 70, according to a study by Natee Amornsiripanitch at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. This evidence, concludes a recent summary of the study, “is large and robust.” The research has important implications for older workers trying to prepare financially for Retirement or retirees planning to change their living arrangements. High…

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Older US Workers of Color at a Disadvantage

As workers age, poor health or disabling physical conditions can interfere with holding down a job. Sometimes people are forced to quit working if things get really rough, whether they’re ready to r…

As workers age, poor…

As workers age, poor health or disabling physical conditions can interfere with holding down a job. Sometimes people are forced to quit working if things get really rough, whether they’re ready to retire or not. But race also figures into this predicament, because workers of color are already in poorer health and tend to have more vulnerable employment situations than White workers. A new study compares what’s it’s like to be an older Black, Hispanic or Asian person who is trying to keep working in two countries with similar cultures: the United States and England. The United States does…

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Remote Work Didn’t Recede with Pandemic

The remote work necessitated by COVID may be here to stay in five English-speaking countries from Australia to the United States. That’s the conclusion from a study of 250 million online job ads –…

The remote work nece…

The remote work necessitated by COVID may be here to stay in five English-speaking countries from Australia to the United States. That’s the conclusion from a study of 250 million online job ads – nearly half of them in this country. The number of postings in January that offered remote work for one or more days per week was three to five times larger than the remote work positions advertised on the cusp of the pandemic in 2019. Notably, their numbers increased sharply last year as COVID was retreating. The countries in the study are: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and…

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COVID’s Toll on Minorities with Disabilities

It’s been well documented that the COVID recession and layoffs in 2020 were particularly hard on Black, Hispanic, and Latino Americans. But if they had a disabling physical and medical condition, th…

It’s been well doc…

It’s been well documented that the COVID recession and layoffs in 2020 were particularly hard on Black, Hispanic, and Latino Americans. But if they had a disabling physical and medical condition, they felt it much more. In a new study examining the cumulative impact of having a disability combined with the disadvantages of being an older minority worker or retiree,  the racial disparities were apparent on a variety of fronts – in the inability to pay for essentials, at work, and through some difficulty obtaining medical care. Past research has shown that once the pandemic hit, people with…

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Racial Disparities Exist in Long-term Care

The types of long-term care located in various communities are largely driven by what their oldest residents can afford. This has created stark differences in what’s available to White and minority …

The types of long-te…

The types of long-term care located in various communities are largely driven by what their oldest residents can afford. This has created stark differences in what’s available to White and minority retirees, a new study finds. Assisted living facilities, despite the high cost, have been the fastest-growing part of the long-term care industry over the past 20 years. In the cities and suburbs, where the vast majority of Americans live, more of these facilities are located in predominantly White communities. Adult day care centers, at less than half the price of assisted living, have also expan…

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Homelessness: Can You Pass this Quiz?

Do you know the main reason Americans slip into homelessness? Are you aware of the roots of this longstanding crisis? The best way to counter negative views of homelessness is to develop a better unde…

Do you know the main…

Do you know the main reason Americans slip into homelessness? Are you aware of the roots of this longstanding crisis? The best way to counter negative views of homelessness is to develop a better understanding of why it exists and who it affects. The Urban Institute has put together a quick quiz to explore an issue that people with secure jobs and comfortable housing don’t think much about – and might prefer not to think about. The federal government’s latest estimate of the homeless population makes clear that little progress has been made in reducing it, despite many communities’ eff…

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Post-COVID, View of Nursing Homes Erodes

COVID has moved from a central place in our lives to a risk that, while still important to heed, has moved out of the foreground. One thing we will not forget, however, is COVID’s toll on nursing ho…

COVID has moved from…

COVID has moved from a central place in our lives to a risk that, while still important to heed, has moved out of the foreground. One thing we will not forget, however, is COVID’s toll on nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, where the virus has killed more than 200,000 older Americans and staff. The tragedy also played out in nursing homes in Canada, where the deaths received high-profile coverage in the news media, just as they did in this country. A survey of Canadians at the end of 2020, while COVID was still raging, indicates that the pandemic caused major changes in their …

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Social Security in Multigenerational Families

It’s not unusual for Black and Latino children to live with their grandparents, who are either the primary caregivers or members of a multigenerational family. And just as the grandparent is integra…

It’s not unusual f…

It’s not unusual for Black and Latino children to live with their grandparents, who are either the primary caregivers or members of a multigenerational family. And just as the grandparent is integral to the family unit, so are the Social Security benefits the grandparent receives and contributes to the household. The poverty rates in families with children would be much higher without the income from Social Security, according to new research on Wisconsin families. Nearly two-thirds of the study’s families in which a grandparent is a child’s primary Caregiver rely on Social Security reti…

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Advantage Plans Deny 6% of Treatments

Here’s something you should know about Medicare Advantage plans: the vast majority of these insurance policies require prior approval before a person can receive some medical treatments and services…

Here’s something y…

Here’s something you should know about Medicare Advantage plans: the vast majority of these insurance policies require prior approval before a person can receive some medical treatments and services. Historically, that was not the case, and prior authorizations are still very unusual for people who are enrolled in original Medicare and a Medigap supplement. But in the case of Medicare Advantage plans, physicians submitted more than 35 million requests for prior authorization to insurers in 2021, and more than 2 million of them – or about 6 percent – were fully or partially denied, accord…

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Disability Job Programs Get Mixed Reviews

Nearly half of the people receiving federal disability benefits have a psychiatric impairment that interferes with working. And they tend to be younger and more willing to work than other disability b…

Nearly half of the p…

Nearly half of the people receiving federal disability benefits have a psychiatric impairment that interferes with working. And they tend to be younger and more willing to work than other disability beneficiaries. This makes them good candidates for employment support programs that encourage working at least part-time and might even prevent them from applying for benefits at all. According to a Mathematica review of research on three government jobs programs, the programs had some success in boosting participants’ employment and earnings. However, they didn’t prove effective over the long …

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Broadband in High Disability Areas is Subpar

The Internet has become a necessity in our modern society. Yet 42 million Americans live in areas of the country where the connections to technology are subpar or, in extreme cases, nonexistent. At th…

The Internet has bec…

The Internet has become a necessity in our modern society. Yet 42 million Americans live in areas of the country where the connections to technology are subpar or, in extreme cases, nonexistent. At the same time, federal and state governments are increasingly relying on people to interact with them online. This mismatch between a growing reliance on the Internet and a lack of easy access is a problem for one especially vulnerable population: people with disabilities. Without access to a fast reliable Internet connection, it can be very difficult to apply online to Social Security for disabilit…

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Burden of High Rents Surged during COVID

As the bad first two years of the pandemic recede in the rear-view mirror, a new report reminds us how tough things got for renters. In 2021, a record 21.6 million U.S. families were paying more than …

As the bad first two…

As the bad first two years of the pandemic recede in the rear-view mirror, a new report reminds us how tough things got for renters. In 2021, a record 21.6 million U.S. families were paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent, which is the real estate industry’s benchmark for people whose housing costs have become a financial burden. That amounts to just under half of all renter households who were struggling during COVID – very close to the high reached during the Great Recession. And the vast majority of the 1.2 million increase from 2020’s level was in the group that struggle…

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The Case for Signing a Power of Attorney

The best reason to set up a power of attorney for yourself or an elderly family member is to avoid a far more contentious and expensive alternative later: guardianship. Jonathan Williams A power of at…

The best reason to s…

The best reason to set up a power of attorney for yourself or an elderly family member is to avoid a far more contentious and expensive alternative later: guardianship. Jonathan Williams A power of attorney becomes urgent if an elderly family member is showing early signs of dementia. “You want to run, not walk, to get that done because capacity tends not to get better,” said Jonathan Williams, an attorney with the Clarity Legal Group in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area. “Having good legal documents in place, if the person has the ability to execute them, can be helpful later on,” he sai…

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Mental Health Care is Crucial Disability Need

During the pandemic, calls to mental health hotlines soared. People in emotional distress learned that psychologists were booked months in advance or were completely unavailable. While COVID dramatize…

During the pandemic,…

During the pandemic, calls to mental health hotlines soared. People in emotional distress learned that psychologists were booked months in advance or were completely unavailable. While COVID dramatized the need for mental health treatment generally, new research reveals how important being treated is to people with disabilities. Isaac Swensen and Carly Urban at Montana State University found that ready access to outpatient care slightly increases applications for disability benefits by working-age people under Social Security’s insurance program and by poor and marginally employed workers un…

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Health Insurance Increases Latinx Wealth

About one out of every five Latinx workers in this country lacks health insurance. The uninsured ratio rises to one in four in the states that have chosen not to expand their Medicaid programs to more…

About one out of eve…

About one out of every five Latinx workers in this country lacks health insurance. The uninsured ratio rises to one in four in the states that have chosen not to expand their Medicaid programs to more low-income workers under the Affordable Care Act. The motivation for Josefina Flores Morales’ new research is that there’s more to health insurance than just medical care. It is also critical to individuals’ financial health, she argues, and broader insurance coverage in the Latinx community is an underappreciated way that the vast wealth gap between them and non-Latinx White workers could …

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Boomerang Kids Don’t Derail Their Parents

A popularized Image of parents who struggle when adult children move back home is not shaping up as an accurate picture of the arrangements. Unemployment, divorce, college graduation – adult childre…

A popularized Image …

A popularized Image of parents who struggle when adult children move back home is not shaping up as an accurate picture of the arrangements. Unemployment, divorce, college graduation – adult children in their 20s and 30s move back into a parent’s home for many reasons. And the parents can have all sorts of reactions, good and bad, to their boomeranging kids. Some parents get stressed out by young adults who return home because they need financial support. Others welcome having the kids back to pad the Empty Nest, help with household chores, or help pay the bills. The return home isn’t ne…

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Student Debt Plan Helps Black Retirees

For the sliver of retirees who are far behind in paying their own or their children’s student loans, Social Security can withhold part of their benefits to pay the loans back. But college has gotten…

For the sliver of re…

For the sliver of retirees who are far behind in paying their own or their children’s student loans, Social Security can withhold part of their benefits to pay the loans back. But college has gotten much more expensive since the Baby Boomers attended, and loan delinquencies are higher among working people and especially Black Americans. When today’s Black workers retire, their estimated household delinquency rate will be 5.4 percent – well more than double the rate for White and Hispanic retirees. The question is how withholding Social Security benefits will impact the financial security…

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Employers Routinely Avoid Paying Overtime

Walk into a restaurant, retail store or hotel, and you might encounter a manager who seems to be doing the same tasks as the people he’s managing. Maybe you’re in one of those jobs. A lawsuit by e…

Walk into a restaura…

Walk into a restaurant, retail store or hotel, and you might encounter a manager who seems to be doing the same tasks as the people he’s managing. Maybe you’re in one of those jobs. A lawsuit by employees against a retail store revealed how meaningless the title of manager can be: the store managers were “stocking shelves, running cash registers, unloading trucks and cleaning parking lots, floors and bathrooms.” Hardly the types of responsibilities that go with overseeing one’s coworkers. The employees were suing for overtime pay under a Depression-era federal law to receive back pay…

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