Posts Tagged ‘retirement’

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Posted: 27 February 2017 in Uncategorized
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Setting aside enough of the surplus to support workers who have retired is one of the basic tasks any society faces.

Clearly, the United States is failing at that one simple task.

Yes, Americans do have Social Security. But, at an average monthly payment of $1,360 in 2017, it’s obviously not enough.

That’s why American workers are forced to have the freedom to come up with their own savings for retirement. And most are finding it difficult, if not impossible.

Overall, only one-third of American workers are saving anything in a workplace retirement account.

One reason is because, according to a recent study, only 2 out of 5 employees with access to 401(k)s and other defined-contribution retirement saving plans are actually using them. They simply aren’t being paid enough to buy what they need for themselves and their families and, at the same time, to put away money for retirement.

It’s no coincidence that the Census analysis found Americans with higher incomes were more likely to be socking money away for their old age. That dovetails with other data, such as the Federal Reserve’s annual survey on household finances, which found that almost 9 out of 10 Americans with more than $100,000 in annual income have a 401(k), compared with just four out of 10 earning less than $40,000.

The other reason is only 14 percent of companies actually offer these types of retirement plans, far lower than previous estimates.

The low percentage of employers that offer 401(k)s was especially noteworthy, [retirement specialist Arielle] O’Shea said, since previous estimates pegged the number at about 40 percent. “That is a significant problem,” she said.

Yes, indeed, that is a problem. Fourteen percent instead of 40 percent.*

The combined effect is that two-thirds of American workers are simply unable to save enough to fund their own retirements. They will have spent most of their lives working—and then they will struggle to stop working and enjoy their retirement.

Contrary to the advice of countless retirement specialists and politicians, who exhort American workers to tighten their belts and increase their savings, they’re not the ones who have failed. It’s a system that keeps workers’ pay in check and yet relies on their finding a way to accumulate individual savings—it’s that system that has failed American workers.

As I see it, the system that relies on individual decisions to save for retirement can’t be saved. Instead, it should be retired. And then replaced by the obvious alternative: transferring a portion of the growing surplus to workers when they retire. Such a system would be able to provide more generous benefits, starting at an earlier age—exactly what is need right now.

We can even give that system a name. Let’s call it Social Security 2.0.

 

*Now, it’s true, larger employers are more likely to offer 401(k)-style plans than smaller ones. So, 79 percent of Americans do in fact work at places that sponsor retirement plans. The problem is just 41 percent of those workers are making contributions to such a plan—more than 20 points lower than previous estimates.

Chart of the day

Posted: 4 January 2017 in Uncategorized
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The 401(k) revolution was good for employers but clearly not for workers.

By eliminating almost all defined-benefit plans, employers managed to shift most of the risk and costs of retirement plans to their workers.

What did workers get? Not a lot. Less than 60 percent of workers within ten years of retirement have any kind of retirement plan and their median retirement savings are only $104 thousand. Still, that’s more than the average household of the same age, which has managed to accumulate only $14.5 thousand in retirement savings.

It should come as no surprise, then, that both the early backers of 401(k) plans (like Herbert Whitehouse and Ted Benna) and pension experts who claimed workers would have enough to retire if they set aside just 3 percent of their paychecks in 401(k) plans (like Teresa Ghilarducci) are left to rue the day.

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According to a new report on the state of U.S. retirement by the Economic Policy Institute, many Americans rely on savings in 401(k)-type accounts to supplement Social Security in retirement. This is a pronounced shift from a few decades ago, when many retirees could count on predictable, constant streams of income from traditional pensions.

Almost nine in 10 families in the top income fifth had savings in retirement accounts in 2013, compared with less than one in 10 families in the bottom quintile. This reflects a growing disparity in the new millennium as the share of families with retirement account savings declined significantly for all except the top income group.

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According to a new report on the state of U.S. retirement by the Economic Policy Institute, many Americans rely on savings in 401(k)-type accounts to supplement Social Security in retirement. This is a pronounced shift from a few decades ago, when many retirees could count on predictable, constant streams of income from traditional pensions.

Nearly half of working-age families have nothing saved in retirement accounts, and the median working-age family had only $5,000 saved in 2013. Meanwhile, the 90th percentile family had $274,000, and the top 1 percent of families had $1,080,000 or more (not shown on chart). These huge disparities reflect a growing gap between haves and have-nots since the Great Recession as accounts with smaller balances have stagnated while larger ones rebounded.

 

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According to a new report on the state of U.S. retirement by the Economic Policy Institute, many Americans rely on savings in 401(k)-type accounts to supplement Social Security in retirement. This is a pronounced shift from a few decades ago, when many retirees could count on predictable, constant streams of income from traditional pensions.

As it turns out, nearly half of U.S. families have no retirement account savings at all. That makes median (50th percentile) values low for all age groups, ranging from $480 for families in their mid-30s to $17,000 for families approaching retirement in 2013. For most age groups, median account balances in 2013 were less than half their pre-recession peak and lower than at the start of the new millennium.

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Special mention

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People are always amazed when I tell them how little American workers have managed to save for retirement—and, thus, why the Social Security system is so important.

According to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, on the state of retirement for American workers, the numbers are sobering.

Remember from yesterday that nearly half of American working families have no retirement account savings at all. That makes median (fiftieth-percentile) values low for all age groups, ranging from $480 for families in their mid-30s to $17,000 for families approaching retirement in 2013. For most age groups, median account balances in 2013 were less than half their pre-recession peak and lower than at the start of the new millennium.

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Of course, mean retirement savings are much higher than the median. Yet, while average retirement account savings grew somewhat between 2001 and 2013, this was mostly due to the aging of the large baby-boomer cohort, as older families have had more time to accumulate savings. And, for those baby-boomers, their retirement savings had declined on average more than 20 percent between 2007 and 2013.

In fact, rather than declines (or, for some groups, stagnation), we should be seeing rising retirement account balances at all ages to offset declines in defined-benefit pension coverage and Social Security cuts.

And we’re not.