Many of us, especially those who are younger, probably haven’t thought much about our retirement plans. I wouldn’t have put any thought into it either if I wasn’t an investment advisor. But I’ve run into some troubling stats about the relationship between Americans and retirement, so I think it’s worth talking about.
First, by retirement, I mostly mean age, like somewhere in your 60s. I don’t mean quitting all obligations and sitting around by a lake somewhere. Retirement definitely could include that (I’m counting on it!), but most of us probably won’t be content to only sit around. We’ll probably be doing some kind of work when we’re retired. What you definitely don’t want when you’re in your 60s is to be working full time out of necessity at a job you’d rather not be working at (which is unfortunately normal among retirement age Americans). I think about retirement as a time when people have options. I’ll personally want to keep working or doing something productive, but it could be work that doesn’t pay, or pays very little; I’ll be doing it because I want to, not because I have to. And let’s be honest, at some point we just won’t have the strength to keep working full time, so we need a plan to pay the bills.
Here’s a problem, 1 in 3 Americans has nothing saved for retirement. 4 out of 5 Americans have less than one year’s worth of income saved in retirement accounts. That obviously isn’t great. Consumer debt is on the rise. Student loans put young people in a large hole right out of college, the most fruitful investing years. Credit card debt is up. Car loans are accepted as the normal way to buy a car. The average American starts behind finically and borrows their way further down. Partly because of this debt crisis and partly because of our consumer culture, Americans only save about 3% of their income today, barely enough to keep up with inflation let alone fund their futures.
Compounding all of this is our increasing dependence on savings for retirement. Generation Y (Millennials) and Generation Z will to need to lean on investment accounts more than any generation before for a few reasons:
1) Pensions are all but gone. They’re a conduit for too much risk to employers who have shifted to 401(k) offerings. This trend isn’t actually bad, the market will do a better job growing money, and many employees offer generous 401k matching programs. But in order for it to work employees need to be intentional about utilizing 401(k)s, and to understand how the money is invested within the 401(k)s. That’s where we tend to fall short. Employees miss out on $1,336 in employer matches each year. We also let the money we do have in 401(k)s languish in actively trading mutual funds, surrendering large sums to fees and sub-market performance.
2) We don’t know exactly what Social Security will look like in the future, on its current trajectory it will have to be cut by about 23% by 2033. There will likely still be some sort of social security benefits down the road but it’s not something reliable enough to stake retirement on.
So right now, regardless of your age, do you have any idea what your retirement is going to look like? One meeting with an advisor to take a quick look at your situation could save you worlds of financial hurt down the road. Maybe you’re actually in great shape, or maybe there are just a few small things you can change which would have a dramatic impact on your financial future, or maybe you need someone to tell you your lifestyle needs trimming. It’s something you can, and probably should know.