Money, Health, and Other Things

Educational Blog in the Area of Family and Consumer Sciences for the Middle Peninsula


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[Replay] What are Microaggressions and Why do they Matter?

Over the next few weeks, we’ll revisit some of our past posts on Diversity and Inclusion!

What are microaggressions and why do they matter? Microaggressions are everyday interactions, whether verbal or otherwise, that intentionally or unintentionally reinforce a person’s or group’s inferior status. Often these are unintentional negative slights of bias towards traditionally socially devalued groups.

They can take the form of jokes, such as “what do you mean you’re not good at math? You’re Asian!” or “what do you mean you can’t cook? You’re a woman.” They can also take the form of seemingly innocent comments, but depending on the context, the subtext of the message reinforces that discriminatory or alienating belief. For instance, asking where someone is from, at face value, is a pretty innocent question. However, if that question is only being directed towards people of color, the subtext becomes that that person is somehow less American or assumes they are a foreigner, reinforcing the idea that white is the standard American race. Another example is asking a mother if they will stay with the kids instead of working, but not asking the same question to fathers. Microaggressions can also seem like complements, but only at the expense of discriminating against a target group. “You’re so articulate, you don’t sound black.”

Microaggressions can also invalidate current and historical discrimination and undermine the challenges for those in traditionally socially devalued groups. “Everyone can succeed if they work hard enough,” “do you really have a mental illness? Do you really have a disability? You seem so normal,” “when I see you, I don’t see color,” “all lives matter.”

Microaggressions can also appear in the workplace, related to the organization and its hierarchical structure. This can devalue employee contributions, and create feelings of inferiority. This can include management not making the effort to learn and properly pronounce employee names, or claiming not to have time to respond to everyone’s emails, ignoring messages from subordinates but promptly responding to their supervisors. Pearn Kandola has a great 4-minute video on workplace microaggressions, here.

Microaggressions devalue individual and group identities, creating hostile and invalidating work climates, lowering work productivity and educational learning. This can create both physical and mental health problems to the recipient. To combat this, we all need to be more conscious of the things we say and do. Additionally, we need to be willing to speak up when we hear microaggressions from others. With that said, this doesn’t mean always aggressively denouncing and assuming bad intent. Often these microaggressions are unintentional and the person saying it simply needs to be educated as to why their action or statement is discriminatory. If we are to progress towards a more inclusive tomorrow we need to both assume good intent and not be silent bystanders!


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Planning for Retirement, Part VII

This week, we’ll return and conclude our discussion on estimating how much you need to save for retirement, and discuss strategies to make your retirement money last.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve discussed asset allocation, how much you’re putting aside for retirement, and how much and how long you’ll need retirement income. Once you have all of that information, you can plug it into a retirement calculator and see if you’re meeting your retirement goals! Below, you’ll see a non-exhaustive list of retirement calculators.

What happens if you’re not reaching those retirement goals? There are a few avenues to explore. Can you increase how much you’re saving each year? Are you willing to invest in something with a higher average rate of return, but with more risk? While you likely don’t want to consider working longer than you plan to, or adjusting your goal retirement lifestyle, these considerations may need to be made as well.

Alternatively, you can also look at some strategies to make your retirement funds last. While living off of your income – social security income, pension income, and any income from dividends and bond coupons – without touching your principal retirement savings would be great, it’s not realistic for most households. Instead, you could consider the 4% rule. The 4% rule involves withdrawing 4% of your retirement funds in your first year of retirement. For instance, if you had $750,000 in a retirement account, you would withdraw $30,000 in year one, and add that to any other sources of retirement funds you have. To account for inflation, you would need to increase that amount each year by 3% or so, withdrawing $30,900 in year 2, $31,827 in years 3, and so on and so forth. As long as your retirement funds are growing at least 3%, that would provide you a minimum of 25 years of retirement income. Additionally, if you want to protect against a down market, you can withdraw for the following year as well, and keep next year’s funds in a certificate of deposit (CD) or somewhere else safe that accrues interest. For instance, in the previous example, you could withdraw $60,900 in year 1, and place year 2’s $30,900 in a CD, so you won’t have to withdraw from your retirement funds next year if it’s a down market.

Whichever direction you choose to go with your retirement planning, the important point is that you need to begin planning as soon as you can, so you can make the necessary adjustments to your future retirement savings, to allow you to live the lifestyle you dreamed of during retirement!


That concludes our retirement series, if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me at gjsturm@vt.edu!

http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/retirement/retirement-plan-calculator.aspx

https://investor.vanguard.com/calculator-tools/retirement-income-calculator/

http://money.cnn.com/calculator/retirement/retirement-need/

http://www.schwab.com/public/schwab/investing/retirement_and_planning

https://www.aarp.org/work/retirement-planning/retirement_calculator.html

https://tools.finra.org/retirement_calculator/

https://www3.troweprice.com/ric/ricweb/public/ric.do

http://www.dinkytown.net/java/RetirementNestegg.html


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Planning for Retirement, Part VI

This week, we’ll return and continue our discussion on estimating how much you need to save for retirement.

Last week we discussed ensuring that your retirement savings are invested in a manner that helps those savings grow, without being too risky for your personal risk tolerance. Once your retirement savings are being put in the appropriate investments, it’s time to look at current and future retirement resources. How much are you saving each year for retirement? How much do you already have saved for retirement? How many more years do you plan to work, or alternatively, when do you plan to retire? When you retire, are you planning to do any part-time work, or “fully” retire?

Once you’ve answered all of these questions, you can estimate how much money you’d have at retirement. But how do you know if that will be enough? To answer that, you need to look at how much pre-retirement income you’ll need at retirement. As mentioned last week, a typically household needs anywhere from 70% to more than 100% of pre-retirement income. How much you’ll need will depend on what type of retirement you anticipate. Do you plan to do a considerable amount of traveling? Are you planning on downsizing your home? While many expenses may decrease at retirement – auto insurance, gas, and other auto expenses, lower utilities and housing costs for a smaller home, and often decreased income taxes – many expenses may increase – higher medical and health expenses, and higher travel and entertainment spending.

Lastly, you need to look at how many years of retirement income you’ll need – which brings up the darker question, how long to you expect to live? According to the CDC, for those who reach the age of 65, the average life expectancy of men is 83, and for women is 86. Think about your current health, and also consider being safe and planning for more retirement years than you estimate.

We’ll return next time to conclude our discussion on estimating how much you need to save for retirement, and discuss strategies to make your retirement money last.