In “The Recession Hurt Americans' Retirement Accounts More Than Anybody Knew” I take on the conventional wisdom that retirement balances that fell sharply in the aftermath of the financial crisis quickly recovered. This story papers over a more complicated and worrying reality.

The familiar story goes like this: after losing $2.4 trillion in the second half of 2008, the nation’s 401(k)s quickly recovered with the S&P 500, which grew 54% in the two years following the recession. Indeed, average retirement account balances among older workers increased by 7% over this period. As it so often does, however, this average belies tremendous variation among individuals.

Roughly 45% of workers age 51-59 saw their retirement balances fall during the 2009-2011 recovery. Once retirement account balances fall, they may never fully recover, especially for older workers. If your account loses 25% of its value, it will have to increase by 33% just to make up the difference.

Our current retirement savings system exposes workers to far too much risk and uncertainty. The solution is Guaranteed Retirement Accounts, which would pool and professionally manage savings, and promise seniors a rate of return so they can choose when to retire.

In “Why It’s Hard to Know How Much Retirement Savings is Enough” I evaluate recent research on optimal retirement savings. The AARP and the Social Security Administration advise people to have at least ten times their annual salary saved by the time they retire. This is a good rule-of-thumb, and most economists endorse it. Recently, however, some have argued that it may be too high. They have the story wrong.

John Karl Scholtz and Ananth Seshardi at the University of Wisconsin say that calculations are biased upward because they fail to account for the costs of raising children. Parents’ financial requirements are much greater when they have children. As soon as their kids grow up, their financial burdens fall. Calculating financial needs as a portion of middle-age income, which must support both parents and children, overestimates what two people really need in retirement.

This is a nice story, but it is unrealistic. On average, parents’ retirement balances increase by only 1% when their children leave home. Exactly why is unclear, but it suggests that Scholz and Seshardi’s story is misleading, and traditional rules-of-thumb for retirement saving are not exaggerated.

In “The AtlanticAt What Age Do Workers Stop Getting Raises” I write about a dismal finding from the New York Federal Reserve. Most Americans’ earnings peak and plateau in their 40’s. After inflation, their take-home pay declines for their final 15-20 working years.

To make matters worse, many American workers actually experience a decrease in earnings in their 50’s and 60’s. Those who switch jobs later in life receive, on average, a 20% pay cut. Only workers at the very top of the income distribution see large and continuous raises until they retire.

Many personal finance experts recommend elderly workers practice restraint and frugality to protect them from poverty as their earnings fall. Since some of their peers will see extraordinary income gains at these ages, they must resist the temptation to “keep up with the Joneses” and spend beyond their means. To me, this sounds a lot like blaming the victim. Small regulatory changes and better public information about debt, earnings, and retirement could reverse the trend of increasing old-age poverty.

The Department of Labor today announced the September unemployment rate for workers between the ages of 55-64 was 3.6%. A slight decrease (0.4%) from last month's rate of 4.0%, this represents 945,000 older workers struggling in the labor market.

But economists know this number is too low and underestimates how soft the labor market is, for three reasons.

The first two apply to all workers. By counting only those who have searched for a job within the past four weeks, it leaves out people working part-time because they can't find a full-time job and "discouraged" workers who haven't been able to find a job for so long they have stopped looking. These are known as the hidden unemployed.September Unemployment Report

Real Unemployment in September, for workers 55-64, adding the 196,000 discouraged and 167,000 involuntarily part-time workers to those officially unemployed increases the total unemployed to 1,308,000, an increase of 28%. Going back to 2014, this real unemployment rate for workers 55-64 would be up to 30% higher.

For older workers, this adjusted number is still too low. If they can't find a job or can only find a low-wage or part-time job, older workers have the option to leave the ranks of the officially unemployed, or even the discouraged, and retire early. While this sounds like a good option, these folks pay a steep price for choosing to leave an unfriendly labor market. Known as being "pushed" into retirement, they are in danger of facing downward mobility throughout their old age by accessing Social Security and their retirement savings earlier than planned.

The labor market for older workers is far more vulnerable in real life than in statistics. This reality proves that proposals to raise the retirement age would only exacerbate this labor mismatch - further increasing the supply of older workers without a corresponding increase in the supply of employment opportunities. It also highlights the need to create savings vehicles for workers, such as Guaranteed Retirement Accounts, that would provide a lifetime stream of income to retirees to help them maintain their living standards should they chose to leave the labor market.

I take on an old and misinterpreted explanation for people’s failure to adequately prepare for retirement in,“The Real Reason People Don’t Save Enough for Retirement.” Put simply, it’s because we are different. Some of us have characteristics that lead us to save more, others don’t.

What I’m discussing here are the Big Five Personality Traits, known as OCEAN (or CANOE), which stands for Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, has researched the connection between personality types and savings. Her findings are not tremendously surprising: those who are most conscientious--efficient, organized, and careful--are most likely to be successful savers.

What does this mean for retirement policy? Victorian-era social reformers enacted financial literacy campaigns, especially for young girls, to thrust conscientious upon them. Today, most boards of education impose compound interest exercises on their elementary school students to imprint good saving behavior in their DNA. Several states make their fourth graders play stock-market and IRA-inspired games in class.

Changing personalities is hard at best. And is it a worthy goal? Diverse personalities produce the variation in opinions, ideas, and products that makes life interesting and exciting. Instead, we should implement retirement reform that is effective regardless of personality type by creating Guaranteed Retirement Accounts mandatory, pooled savings accounts into which workers and their employers contribute every year. GRAs would allow Americans to enjoy the dignified retirements they deserve, regardless where they come down in the “Big Five.”

In “Leisure Inequality: What the Rich-Poor Longevity Gap Will Do to Retirement” I look at the inequality in end-of-life experiences between the rich and the poor. I begin with a startling fact from the 20th century: between 1930-1960, while the life expectancy of rich men increased by eight years, the life expectancy of poor men was unchanged. Though Social Security and Medicare have improved the end-of-life experiences of poor and middle-class Americans, a chasm remains between the golden year experiences of the rich and poor.

One difference is how the children of wealthier Americans are more prepared to guide their parents through later-life. A friend of mine recently wrote to me about the difficulties of navigating the medical, financial, and legal challenges arising from her father’s end-of-life care. She says they have taken her “nearly to the limits of my intellectual capacity” - and she is a health-care policy expert with a PhD!

Her point summarizes decades of research. Gaps in class, education, and income translate into gaps in end-of-life care. Wealthy, educated Americans tend to have educated children who can help them make the best end-of-life decisions and are likely to be with them at the end of their lives. This has important implications for retirement policy. Cutting benefits by raising the retirement age will force lower-income Americans, who haven’t experienced a large increase in longevity, to work longer and miss out on their golden years.

In "Where Not to be Old and Jobless" I take a closer look August’s sunny unemployment report. While we are rightly celebrating the return of the headline unemployment rate to its pre-crisis level, the recovery is not benefiting all workers equally.

I look at the unemployment rate of workers above age 55 in tech-boom cities and find it high. The unemployment rate measures the ratio of people actively looking for work compared to the total labor force. So when we see an unemployment rate of 12.2% for workers over age 55 in Austin, Texas, we know that older workers are stressed, especially considering that the unemployment rate for workers under 55 in Austin is only 3.6%.

Is this surprising? Austin is a tech-hub, and older workers just don’t get technology, right? Probably not. While more research is needed into this subject, I’d speculate this is a result of age-discrimination and a decline in bargaining power.

Regardless of the causes, however, a few things are clear. These numbers likely understate the problem. Early retirement is often involuntary. And there are easy solutions. At minimum, we should expand Social Security and create universal pensions to help older workers prepare for retirement regardless of their level of economic stress.