What the experts say
Vacation guilt keeps us at work
“While many workers are eagerly anticipating their winter vacations, just as many have nothing on their calendars but work,” said Jessica Dickler in CNBC.com. U.S. workers surrendered roughly 206 million vacation days last year, equivalent to about $66.4 billion in lost benefits, or $604 per worker. Just 23 percent of employees used their full allotment of paid time off. “Those forfeited days aren’t the only sign of workers’ vacation guilt.” The average vacation break is also shrinking, down to 1.4 weeks this year, and nearly half of us admit to checking work emails while on break. Though it may be too late to “swing a last-minute getaway” this year, you should check with human resources regarding your company’s policy. “You may be able to roll over at least some of those unused days to 2018, or cash them out.”
Seniors embrace stocks
Although the U.S. stock market has tripled in value since 2009, “the bull market has left a lot of Americans behind,” said Jordan Yadoo and Ben Steverman in Bloomberg.com. In nearly every age group, the share of families owning stocks—either directly or through funds and retirement accounts—declined from 2007 to 2016. The one exception? Households headed by someone 75 or older. Nearly 49 percent of those households own stocks, up from 40 percent in 2007, just before the financial crisis. Analysts say that’s because bonds—long a staple of retirees’ portfolios—are offering near-record-low yields. As a result, retirees are turning to dividend-paying stocks for income. Remarkably, young Americans are now less likely to own stocks than seniors are. Experts say record levels of student debt, “sluggish wage growth,” and the “lingering trauma of the financial crisis” help explain the shift.
When you’re approaching retirement
“Many retirees are caught off guard by the facts of their new life,” said Chuck Saletta in Money.com. Among the things that I wish people would tell those heading into retirement is that required minimum distributions “can seriously raise your costs.” The withdrawals from your 401(k) or IRA after age 70 ½ are treated as taxable income, which means you “may expose your Social Security benefits to taxation as well.” Increases in your Medicare premiums can also eat significantly into your Social Security benefits. The good news? “Other than health-related costs, your expenses may actually go down.” So take advantage of your nest egg early on, when you can still enjoy it “to the fullest.” ■