Sunday, March 6, 2011

Retirement musings

It seems like every article I read on retirement, the experts say every generational group going forward is going to have a worse retirement than the previous group did. For example, the latest article I read says that people in my age group (30-39) should expect to receive a third or a tenth of the Social Security benefits our parents are receiving. None of these articles seem to want to be harbingers of doom, though: usually in the same breath/paragraph they say that currently working people shouldn't panic, they have plenty of time to change their behavior.

While it's true there is always time to do better, I'm  not really convinced it's going to happen. Whenever the subject of saving for retirement comes up it seems like few of the people I talk to are saving really aggressively (in my book, a minimum retirement savings rate is 15% and aggressive savings is 20% or more). I know that life gets in the way and expenses are steep, but I'm concerned. And retirement is definitely not going to just take care of itself.

I'm reminded of the housing boom when households making 70k were buying houses for 500k: on paper it looked like a bad, bad idea, and in the end it was. But whereas homeowners can walk away, or get an adjustment, or declare bankruptcy, where does the person facing retirement with less than 100k saved find relief?

I speculate we'll be reading a lot more stories about what actually happens when someone retires and has a cash shortfall. We've got people planning to (or having to) retire with no way to support themselves, but we're not hearing about what that actually looks like.

I sure don't know where we're going as a country and as a society, I've got serious concerns about our lack of a plan, and I think it's going to get really really ugly for a lot of people.

How's that for a sunny Sunday morning?

Here are some of the articles that got me going:  (free login seems to be required for the NY Times)
Making the most out of less - NY Times
Retiring boomers find 401k plans fall short - Wall Street Journal

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