General Interest

Supporting Ourselves in Retirement

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I recently had the opportunity to review a report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, which has produced its 2010 Retirement Confidence Survey. (You can read the report right here.) There are several significant, eye-opening findings in the report. For example, “most workers have little put away in savings and investments…” – and when you look at the results, broken down by age, the findings are startling. Among workers age 55+, nearly half (48%) have less than $50,000 in retirement savings. And… 29% (that’s almost 1 in 3) have less than $10,000 in savings. And so the question needs to be raised: exactly how is it that we plan to support ourselves?

Apparently, we think we are going to just keep on working. The report shows that among those 55+, fully 42% aren’t planning to retire until sometime beyond age 66 and an additional 10% say that they simply will never retire. But is this a realistic way to go about planning for our later years? First, while we may “feel” like we’re 26, our bodies at age 66 are different. Truth is that those bodies have aged – and, most likely, are not in the same condition as a person in his or her 20′s. Depending on your line of work, your ability to continue to function like a 26-year-old may simply not be the same. Second, in this economic climate, employers are in the driver’s seat. Yes, there are laws against age discrimination and yes, your years of experience should add value to the employability equation. But most employers have far fewer slots to fill today than at other times in history. So if the slots disappear or don’t materialize, then your plan to just “keep on working” may be foiled.

So, After Fiftiers, what we need in our lives is a large dose of realism. Barely 50% of us aged 55+ (according to the report) have even tried to calculate how much money we’ll need for retirement. Only 13% think they’ll have enough money overall to live comfortably during those later years. And, they are probably right. Far too few of us have adequately planned for the years ahead.

We’re the generation that ushered in the era of technology. We’re the generation responsible for more medical breakthroughs than any other generation. We stormed DC during Viet Nam, and we broke through both racial and gender barriers. We’re bright, well educated, resourceful and resilient. But, we’re very unprepared for what lies ahead. Let’s pull our heads out of the sand and try to figure this one out.

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