sealPurdue Lifestyles, Education, Careers Briefs

May 2001

Researcher: Education lacking in retirement planning

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Research from Purdue University indicates there are large numbers of Americans who are undereducated when it comes to retirement planning.

Sharon DeVaney, a professor of consumer sciences and retailing, specializes in personal financial management over the life course and economic security in retirement. She and research assistant Yi-Wen Chien used data from the 1998 Survey of Consumer Finances to examine factors influencing the amount people put into tax-deferred savings plans, either through their employer or an individual retirement account or Keogh plan. The study was funded by a grant from the American Association of Retired Persons' Andrus Foundation.

"There is a lack of agreement in the public and private sectors on whether workers are saving enough for retirement," says DeVaney. "It makes sense that if we can get an accurate picture of who is saving, we will then be able to pinpoint who isn't saving and target those people for extra information."

DeVaney's research results, which were published in the Journal of Financial Services Professionals, showed nine factors as significant predictors for participation in a defined contribution plan and 13 factors that pointed to investment in an IRA or Keogh plan.

"For both types of savings, there was a positive relationship between the amount saved and taking more financial risk, being married, having more education, being a professional, owning a home, the amount of non-financial assets and spending less than last year's income," DeVaney says. "From this we can surmise that people who are overly conservative with their money, who are not white collar and who are less educated are going to be less likely to be saving adequately for their retirement."

So the question becomes how to reach these people with the financial information they need?

"I think there's more and more of a push to provide education at work because people aren't getting it anywhere else," DeVaney says. "There is a lot of good information available on the Internet, but the consumer needs to be able to distinguish between useful information and a sales pitch."

DeVaney suggests workers look for low-cost or free resources in their own communities, such as workshops or seminars available through cooperative extension programs. She also recommends employers make a special effort to have easily understandable materials and resources available, and that it's a good idea to pay special attention to younger staff members who are not only new to the company, but new to the work force as well.

"Retirement is usually the last thing on a young person's mind when he or she starts a first job, but it's really important to understand the benefits of beginning to save early," DeVaney says.

CONTACT: Sharon DeVaney, (765) 494-8300,

Pharmacists prescribe solution to insurance bottleneck

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Weaving through the diverse assortment of insurance plans has changed the way pharmacists do business, and, according to some, contributed to a national shortage of practicing pharmacists.

One of the fastest growing trends is the third-party payment plan, where insurance companies sign contracts with drug companies to provide certain medications at a set price with a small professional fee provided for the pharmacist.

These plans, along with other insurance and managed-care plans, are such a maze that many universities, drug stores and insurance companies have developed programs to help educate the pharmacist on how to process claims and offer the best price on a prescription drug.

"There are many, many different plans," said Charles O. Rutledge, dean of Purdue University's School of Pharmacy and Pharmacal Sciences. "Some have deductions up to a certain amount, some are co-pay, and some pay for certain medications while not covering others. The third-party payment plan is fairly new, but something that has escalated dramatically in the past few years."

According to figures from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, pharmacists spend about 22 percent of the working day on administrative duties.

It has become a topic in today's pharmacy classroom, said Joseph Thomas, a professor of pharmacy administration at Purdue, which has one of the largest professional programs in pharmacy in the nation.

"It is a topic covered today, and the students get hands-on practical experience at the training pharmacy, which is an actual working pharmacy we have on campus for Purdue students," Thomas said. "The students must take the health card from the patient and determine the payment of the prescription. This is definitely growing as managed-care plans grow."

Due to an increase in drug development, greater availability of insurance and managed-care plans, and the mass marketing of prescription drugs, the demand for prescriptions has grown as well. According to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, about two billion prescriptions were filled in 1992, and three billion in 1998. By the year 2005, this figure is expected to reach four billion.

Experts say the answer to meeting this growing demand is not to increase the number of practicing pharmacists, but to change the way prescriptions are filled.

"It may seem that there are not enough people to fill the prescriptions, and it is only natural that the first instinct is to increase the number of pharmacists, but the real answer to this is improved time management and a more efficient use of pharmacy technicians," Rutledge said.

CONTACT: Charles O. Rutledge, (765) 494-1368,

Media messages may encourage paranormal belief

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The prevalence of television shows like "The X Files" and "Unsolved Mysteries" may impact the beliefs people hold about phenomena such as extrasensory perception, alien abductions and the ability to communicate with the dead, according to a recent Purdue study.

Purdue communication Professor Glenn Sparks and cultural analyst Will Miller of West Lafayette surveyed 200 randomly selected respondents on their TV viewing habits and the extent to which they endorsed various beliefs. The results, which appeared in the March issue of "Communications Monographs," is part of a long-term research program on the impact of media messages on paranormal beliefs.

"Despite regular news reports of new medical breakthroughs and other triumphs of science, there is still widespread belief in the paranormal," says Sparks, who is internationally recognized for his research on the effects of mass media. "More than 40 percent of the people we surveyed expressed belief in haunted houses, psychic mediums, ghosts and prophetic dreaming."

Among their key findings were that people with lower levels of education were more likely to express belief in the paranormal and that such belief was not related to the tendency to express strong religious convictions. But even after taking into account demographic variables like gender, income and education, the strongest predictor of belief in the paranormal was whether people watched TV programs that regularly featured paranormal themes.

"We can't make a definitive conclusion that paranormal shows actually cause an increase in belief because it could be that those who believe in the paranormal are more likely to watch those kinds of programs," Sparks says. "But in laboratory experiments conducted on this topic, exposure to paranormal depictions does increase paranormal belief. Our findings are certainly consistent with other experimental research that indicates media messages about the paranormal do influence beliefs."

Sparks notes that paranormal themes have been particularly popular in movies and TV shows over the past few years.

"The box office success of films like 'The Sixth Sense' and 'The Blair Witch Project,' along with the large viewership for TV shows like 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and 'Charmed,' make it clear that there's a great deal of fascination with paranormal media themes."

CONTACT: Glenn Sparks, (765), 494-3316,; Will Miller, (765) 497-3725,

Compiled by Sharon A. Bowker, (765) 494-9723,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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