1. JACKSONVILLE CITY RETIREMENT ELIMINATES TARGET TO MLPS:
Jacksonville (Fla.) City Retirement System eliminated its target to master limited partnerships and increased its targets to international developed and emerging markets equities, following an asset allocation study.
The $2.5 billion pension fund's board approved the elimination of the 3% target to MLPs at its March 25 meeting, recently released meeting minutes show.
The board also approved increasing its targets to international developed markets equities to 16% from 14% and emerging markets equities to 7% from 6%, according to the minutes.
The pension fund's remaining target allocation is unchanged. Those targets are 30% domestic equities; 10% each U.S. aggregate fixed income, core plus fixed income and core real estate; 7% private equity; and 5% each non-core real estate and private credit.
Investment consultant RVK, which conducted the study, recommended eliminating the target to MLPs because "changes in recent years to corporate tax rates and regulatory policy has seen MLPs lose some of their structural advantage versus other asset classes," according to a presentation included with March 25 board meeting materials.
As of March 31, the pension fund had $42 million and $37 million, respectively, invested in MLP managed by Harvest Fund Advisors and Tortoise Capital Advisors, according to its most recent investment report.
As of that same date, the pension fund's actual allocation as 37.7% domestic equities, 24.4% international equities, 18% fixed income, 15.1% real estate, 4.6% diversifying assets and 0.2% cash equivalents.
Joey Greive, the city's director of finance and administration/chief financial officer and the board's vice chairman, could not be immediately reached for further information. Rob Kozlowski, Pension & Investments, www.pionline.com, May 10, 2021.
2. LOS ANGELES FIRE & POLICE VOTES TO KEEP BRANDES:
The board of Los Angeles Fire & Police Pensions voted to stick with Brandes Investment Partners, which manages a $1.1 billion active international equity portfolio, through July 31, 2022, the end of its contract term.
It was not a renewal or extension of Brandes' contract. Rather, the board's vote was to decide whether or not to keep Brandes until the end of its existing contract, said Tom Lopez, CIO in an email.
The board of the $29.6 billion voted to keep Brandes in light of a recent rebound in value strategies after a challenging decade, leading the firm to beat its benchmark.
LAFPP also extended the contract of Frontier Capital Management Co, which manages a $900 million domestic small-cap equity portfolio. The new contract will run until June 2024. Arleen Jacobius, Pension & Investments, www.pionline.com, May 10, 2021.
3. BUILDING INCLUSIVITY INTO EMPLOYEE BENEFITS:
Plan sponsors are increasingly promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in their benefits packages, a survey from Willis Towers Watson has found.
According to Willis Tower Watson’s “Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey,” four-fifths of the 446 employers that responded said they would take steps to promote DEI in their workplace culture and policies over the next three years, compared with 55% that took measures in the past three years. Additionally, seven in 10 employers indicated they would promote DEI-related aspects of their benefit programs and well-being programs throughout the coming three years.
Rachael McCann, senior director of health and benefits at Willis Towers Watson, notes that inequities caused by the pandemic have brought more attention to DEI benefits and efforts.
“We certainly saw this movement and focus beforehand, and at times it was isolated to looking at fertility benefits or parental leave,” she explains. “The past year has really moved forward very quickly, recognizing inequities not just in design, but access to programs, whether that’s to health care, virtual care, eligibility or thinking about domestic partners or those who may be in part-time roles.”
As societal shifts take place and the workforce evolves, McCann asks employers to think about their workforce and the challenges its employees face. Does your plan offer benefits that support families? Are there fertility, infertility and adoption benefits? What inequities have your employees experienced? What is your employees’ gender mix? What does your employee demographic need?
The answers to these questions will help employers get a sense of how to improve a benefits plan to suit all needs; however, it only scratches the surface of a range of issues and inequities countless workers face. The Willis Towers Watson survey finds that evaluating social determinants of health--non-medical factors that influence health outcomes--is integral when assessing benefits, well-being program effectiveness and the future of an employee’s financial wellness.
“Social determinants of health thinks about the influence of where someone lives--their environment, education, access to health care, social connections and support, the community around them,” McCann explains. “If you think about access to transportation, healthy food, the terminology of food deserts, health deserts--how do those factors impact how they might engage in health care, savings for today and for retirement?”
Someone who lives in an inner city may engage with their benefits differently from someone who lives in the suburbs. Studies show suburban residents are more likely to have access to grocery stores, healthy food options and parks to exercise in, whereas poor, urban neighborhoods are unlikely to have those same options, thus creating food and health deserts. “As employers are really trying to manage program costs and help employees thrive in their health, it becomes critical for employers to understand, do we have employees living in an area where there isn’t this access?” McCann says.
At Mercer, the company developed its own DEI list to help plan sponsors check off best practices. “We have a couple of areas that we do deep dives on, including benefits for transgender members who have gender dysphoria and inclusive family benefits, including fertility, adoption and surrogacy,” says Michael Garrett, a principal in Mercer’s Total Health Management Practice who regularly meets with clients to discuss DEI practices.
Along with offering a number of diverse benefits, Garrett emphasizes the importance of communicating such benefits effectively. Supporting these benefits will both contribute to the program’s success.
As an example, he says he had a past client that was interested in forming a disability-inclusive brand. The client was focused on covering hearing aids and eyewear and eliminating limits and exclusions on physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. However, when asked how the client planned to communicate its benefits, the client responded that it would send out a PDF and review it with employees. That led Garrett to ask, “Well, how does someone with vision loss access that information?”
“Same with doing a webinar during open enrollment period--do you have closed captioning? Live transcriptions? Written transcriptions? How you communicate your benefits is very important and thinking about individuals with limited proficiency is also important,” he stresses. “All of this signals to employees that you’re thinking about DEI from a broad perspective.”
Ensuring benefit providers are diverse is also crucial in supporting DEI. One example includes increasing racial and ethnic diversity among in-plan physicians, Garrett says. Ensuring your benefits package has Black and brown medical professionals available is vital to supporting employee bases, he adds. He says research shows that Black patients are more likely to have better health outcomes when treated by Black physicians.
An area that is seeing more demand and offerings is transgender benefits. The Willis Towers Watson survey found 19% of employers say they have taken actions to include benefits for transgender employees and plan to do more this year and in 2022. Twenty-seven percent say they have taken action in adding these benefits but have no other plans to implement additional services in the next year or two, and 10% said they have not taken action yet, but are planning to do so throughout the next year or two.
“This is a space that continues to evolve and grow,” McCann says.
These benefits, in a traditional medical program with prescription drug coverage, may focus on anything from hormone suppression to surgical procedures that help individuals change their gender, such as facial feminization surgery (FFS), for example, McCann says.
She adds that offering these procedures helps combat gender dysphoria and helps allow an individual to visibly look how they feel, yet these surgical procedures continue to be dismissed as elective cosmetic practices and thus are not covered by many health insurance plans.
But, as more transgender employees enter the workforce and as more trans awareness circulates, companies are implementing benefits that support their workers. According to the Human Rights Coalition’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI), 71% of Fortune 500 and more than 91% of CEI-rated businesses offer transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage. That’s up from 0% in 2002 and is 22 times as many businesses in 2009.
Still, offering benefits is only one layer in creating a trans-inclusive workforce, McCann says. Being more aware of trans health issues, adding gender-neutral language and facilities, and normalizing pronouns all create a supportive environment.
“An employer may put in a benefit, but do they have a supportive culture?” she asks. “It’s not just checking the box on benefits; it’s ensuring that the culture and the broader support that that individuals and colleagues need are in place.” Amanda Umpierrez, PLANSPONSOR, www.plansponsor.com, May 6, 2021.
4. LUMP-SUM PENSION BUYOUT WILL REQUIRE INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT LATER IN LIFE:
Question: I had a pension from a previous employer that was going to pay me $759 per month at 65. They offered me a lump-sum buyout about five years ago of around $65,000. I ran the numbers and decided that was definitely not enough money and declined.
Then last year they upped the offer and the new lump sum amount was $125,000. I ran the numbers again and this time decided to grab the money and roll it into an IRA. I’m 63 and plan to retire at 70. I can hopefully grow that $125,000 to $250,000 by that time, which would give me that much more to live on, plus it gives me more discretion on using that money than just getting the monthly payment the pension would have paid me.
I am now questioning whether I made the right decision to take the lump sum.
Answer: There are a number of good reasons for opting for a lump sum versus an annuity. For example, people with large pensions may not be fully protected by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. if their pension fund fails. Others may need more flexibility than an annuity offers.
But a pension is typically money that’s guaranteed for life, in good markets and bad. If you’re choosing the lump sum just because you think you can earn better returns, you need to consider how you’ll protect yourself and your spouse from fraud, bad decisions and bad markets.
Bull markets can lull people into thinking they’re good investors, but markets can go down and stay down for extended periods. That poses a special risk to retirees, who are at increased risk of running out of money when they draw from a shrinking pool of investments. Even a short bear market can cause problems, while an extended one can be disastrous.
You’ll also want to consider how you’ll manage when your cognitive abilities begin to decline. Our financial decision-making abilities peak in our 50s, but our confidence in our abilities tends to remain high even as our cognition slips. That can lead to bad investment decisions and increased vulnerability to fraud.
Finally, consider your spouse. If you die first, will your spouse be comfortable managing these investments? If not, is there someone in place who can help? A financial planner could discuss these issues with you and help you create a plan to deal with them. Liz Weston, Certified Financial Planner, Nerd Wallet, www.nerdwallet.com, May 9, 2021.
5. DO MEN WHO WORK LONGER LIVE LONGER?:
Evidence from the Netherlands. The brief’s key findings are:
- Working longer is a powerful way to improve retirement security, and some suggest it also improves health.
- But does working longer improve health or does good health lead to working longer?
- A temporary tax policy change in the Netherlands that encouraged some older workers to stay in the labor force longer provides a natural experiment.
- The experiment confirms that working longer causes better health – specifically longer life expectancy.
- Men ages 62-65 who worked longer due to the policy change saw a two-month increase in life expectancy during their late 60s.
- This improvement could be more substantial if the impact is longer lasting.
Click here to view the full brief. Alice Zulkarnain and Matthew S. Rutledge, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Issue 21-8, May 2021.
6. ONE HUNDRED MUST-KNOW STATISTICS ABOUT WOMEN AND RETIREMENT:
The data are clear: Women are much more likely than men to have a savings shortfall in retirement. By extension, they’re also more likely to rely exclusively on Social Security for their in-retirement living expenses.
The contributing factors are many. Investing behaviors may be a contributor--specifically, women tend to invest less and hold more cash than their male counterparts. But the major root cause for women falling short in retirement owes to lower lifetime earnings. Not only do women earn less than men, on average, for similar jobs, but caregiving responsibilities cause gaps in earnings. Lower lifetime earnings translate into a savings gap.
To be sure, there are glimmers of positive news--for example, the percentage of employers offering paid family leave has increased substantially over the past several years. But the pandemic has been hard on women financially, with many more women than men leaving the workforce, often to attend to childcare obligations. In aggregate, the data paint a sobering picture about women’s retirement readiness in the United States. Click here to view the stats. Christine Benz, Morningstar, www.morningstar.com, March 3, 2021.
7. NO MONEY, HONEY:
It’s never too late to find love, and lots of dating sites and apps are there to help. But scammers are out to steal your heart, too…and then steal your money. This Older Americans Month, let’s talk about romance scams. These can happen when someone makes a fake profile on dating sites, apps and social media. They then message you to get a relationship going, build your trust, and connect.
Then, they hit you up for money. “Baby, I want to come see you but I’m short on funds. Can you send me $500 for a ticket?” Or, “I love you, honey. But we may not be able to talk anymore because my phone is about to get cut off. I need $300 to pay the bill…” Get the idea?
In the name of love, you send money. They come back with other lies to get still more money. Then the messages stop. You can’t reach them. They’ve taken off with a piece of your heart and big chunk of your wallet.
People reported $304 million in losses to romance scams in 2020. Here’s how you can avoid these heartless imposters:
- If someone you’ve never met in person asks you for money, that’s a scam. No matter the story. Never send money or gifts to anyone you haven’t met in person -- even if they send you money first.
- Only scammers tell you to buy gift cards, wire money, or send cryptocurrency. Once you send that money, you won’t get it back.
- Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture. See if it’s associated with another name or with details that don’t match up. Those are signs of a scam.
Talk to someone you trust about your new love interest, and pay attention if they’re concerned. Learn more by watching this video and at ftc.gov/romancescams. And if a scammer tries to charm you out of your funds, report it to the FTC. Lisa Lake, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC, www.ftc.gov, May 11, 2021.
8. NEARLY HALF OF PARENTS HAVE GIVEN THEIR ADULT CHILDREN MONEY DURING PANDEMIC:
Forty-five percent of parents have given their adult children money since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey by CreditCards.com. And 79% of those who helped their children said the money they gave otherwise would have been spent on their own personal finances.
Personal finances included paying down debt (cited by 33% of parents), taking care of day-to-day expenses (27%), adding to their emergency savings (27%), beefing up their retirement savings (16%) and investing (10%).
Of the parents who gave their children money, 47% gave more than $1,000. Twenty-eight percent gave more than $2,500, and 18% gave more than $5,000. The average amount given was $4,154.
The propensity to financially assist adult children rises with household income. Forty-two percent of parents whose household income is less than $40,000 gave money to their adult children, averaging $1,403. Nearly half (49%) of parents whose household income is between $40,000 and $80,000 gave money to their adult children, averaging $2,170, and 56% of parents in households with an annual income of more than $80,000 gave their children money, averaging $8,530.
Geographically, the amount of money that parents gave to their adult children varied widely. The average amount in the South was $5,018. In the Midwest, it was $4,234. In the West, it was $3,573, and in the Northeast, $2,861.
“While it’s admirable to help your kids financially, you should be careful,” says Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com. “A 2019 Bankrate.com survey found that about half of people who lent money to family and friends experienced a negative consequence such as losing money or damaging the relationship. Be very clear about your expectations. I usually think it’s best to phrase it as a gift to limit the potential for hard feelings.”
People who gave money to their adult children said it was used for: food (47%), housing (33%), a cellphone (27%), a car (23%), paying off debt (21%) and entertainment (11%).
An earlier study by the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) at Boston College found that when children leave their parents’ house, the parents have more money to save for retirement--although the increases in their 401(k) contributions typically range from a mere 0.3% to 0.7%. One financial planner says this may be due to the fact that even after their children leave their home, parents continue to support them financially. Lee Barney, Plan Adviser, www.planadviser.com, May 10, 2021.
9. STATE OF GEN Z PERSONAL FINANCE: ARE THE KIDS ALRIGHT?:
Gen Z aren’t just kids and teenagers anymore. Adult Gen Zers (18-24 years old) are graduating from high school and starting college or a career. This is the time when they may begin to feel a measure of financial independence for the first time, but what are they doing with it? It’s a critical question given the negative impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on this age group, including delayed financial milestones and high rates of unemployment.
To answer this question, I’ve compiled data from our recent polls and tried to put together the puzzle.
Here’s what I’ve gathered.
State of Gen Z personal finance
- Gen Z are iffy about taking on debt
- But they aren’t big on savings either
- Gen Z may be responsible cardholders
- But they mainly pay with debit cards
- Gen Z are off to a rough financial start
- And they have little or no financial guidance
Gen Z are iffy about taking on debt
I often hear the sentiment from my Gen Z friends that they generally avoid debt, and credit card debt especially. It turns out it’s not a consequence of me hyping up credit cards so much they don’t want to hear about them ever again. It’s a common sentiment among Gen Zers, and we have data to prove it.
For example, an early 2020 Bankrate poll showed that 45 percent of Gen Z had no debt prior to and during the pandemic as of May 2020.
Further, according to a survey from CreditCards.com, 50 percent of Gen Z had no personal debt as of December 2020. The same survey reported that the main source of debt for this generation was, as you might have guessed, student loans--24 percent of respondents admitted to having student debt, with credit card debt trailing behind at 12 percent.
Gen Z aren’t big on savings either
The best preventive medicine against falling into debt is savings. Still, the young generation doesn’t seem to be in a rush to save for a rainy day--much like many other Americans of all ages.
Our poll from last year showed that 32 percent of Gen Z didn’t have emergency savings before or during the pandemic and 20 percent decreased the savings they had. Ironically, 19 percent of Gen Z respondents in the same survey reported adding to their credit card debt in the pandemic. While this is just a guess, I’m thinking these last two numbers may be connected. When an emergency hits and you have no financial safety net to fall on, many people choose to rely on their credit cards. Perhaps Gen Z follow the same behavioral patterns.
Gen Z may be responsible credit card holders
When Gen Zers get into credit cards, they’re seemingly drawn to credit card rewards. Our poll from last month showed that 36 percent of Gen Z have a rewards card. It might not seem like a huge number, but remember that Gen Zers are young, and building credit good enough for a rewards card may take some time.
Gen Z rewards card holders are also cautious with their credit cards, with 81 percent of respondents saying they tend to not carry a balance. This may mean that they apply the best credit practices, since paying off your card in full every month is good for both your credit and budget. On the other hand, this may also mean they simply don’t use credit cards they have, especially considering their preferred payment method.
Gen Z mainly pay with debit cards
The majority of Gen Z prefer paying with a debit card across common categories such as gas (32 percent), groceries (44 percent) and restaurants (46 percent).
However, credit cards are their preferred payment method for travel expenses, with 23 percent choosing a card to pay for airfare and hotel. Note that many Gen Zers don’t spend on travel at all, with 50 percent reporting not buying airfare and 45 percent not booking hotels. Considering the pandemic has stolen over a year’s worth of trips and vacations from us all, this is not surprising.
Despite using credit cards on travel expenses, Gen Z have chosen cash back as their favorite redemption option in the pandemic, which has been a trend for each generation. In 2020, 30 percent of Gen Zers redeemed rewards for less than $300 in cash back or gift cards, and 18 percent redeemed for $300 or more in cash back or gift cards. As is also the case with other generations, many Gen Zers (30 percent) have held on to their rewards during the coronavirus crisis.
Gen Z are off to a rough financial start
Unfortunately, the pandemic has delayed much more than trips and vacations. Another survey we’ve conducted this year found that the pandemic has hit pause on financial milestones for many Americans.
This is especially true for young people. For many Gen Zers, the coronavirus crisis has meant a slower journey to financial independence. We’ve found that 54 percent of Gen Zers have delayed a financial milestone in the pandemic.
For example, 21 percent of respondents said they delayed pursuing career opportunities, and another 21 percent decided to wait before furthering their education. Seventeen percent also hit the brakes on buying a car, which I suspect might be the first car for many of them.
Additionally, more Gen Zers (32 percent) moved than any other generation during the pandemic. However, 14 percent of Gen Z respondents came back home after relocating, which may mean that moving stopped being financially feasible for them or that the pandemic changed their plans. Plus, most of those who relocated (30 percent) said it was to be closer to family and friends, and 25 percent reported it was for more affordable living.
I find it sad that COVID-19 has had this effect on young people’s financial lives. It’s one thing battling its economic consequences when you have something to lose, and another when you haven’t even had a chance to start.
Some Gen Zers graduated into the chaotic job market and others found themselves unemployed. They were even called the most unemployed generation. It might very well be that they’re on the path to the same financial struggles millennials have been going through.
Gen Z has little or no financial guidance
In tough situations like those facing Gen Z, good financial advice can be invaluable and prevent many costly mistakes. Unfortunately, financial education has been a pain point for many Americans—Gen Z included.
A recent poll from CreditCards.com found that 28 percent of Gen Zers learn about finance from social media, which the majority of respondents also see as the least reliable source.
Without a doubt, social media platforms may offer useful information in easily digestible form. Some authoritative sources may also have accounts--for instance, did you know Bankrate is on TikTok?
In the end, though, it’s always up to the user to find trustworthy accounts and creators. Knowing the flurry of content we consume on social media every day, I doubt many Gen Zers take their time to verify reliability of each video that appears on their feed.
What’s worse, 22 percent of Gen Z get no financial advice at all. In these challenging economic times, having some guidance can be crucial.
Lack of financial knowledge is one of the most common reasons behind poor money management (I’m speaking from personal experience here), so I hope more Gen Zers seek that knowledge--beyond their social media feeds. Brady Porche, Bankrate, www.bankrate.com, May 5, 2021.
10. FOR THOSE WHO LOVE WORDS - PARAPROSDOKIAN:
A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory. - Winston Churchill
11. QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“When the wind blows, the grass bends.” - Confucius, The Analects
12. TODAY IN HISTORY:
On this day in 1899, First speeding infraction by a New York cabbie driving an electric car at 12mph down Lexington Street.
13. REMEMBER, YOU CAN NEVER OUTLIVE YOUR DEFINED RETIREMENT BENEFIT.