Time was when a pension and Social Security would provide most people all they needed for a secure retirement. But, back then, people were content with working the same job all their lives, watching just three TV stations, and using a rotary phone with no texting or video.
People now have an infinite number of choices for career opportunities, entertainment and social engagement. Furthermore, today’s technology is powerful enough to meet our needs almost instantaneously.
These innovations have made our lives better in ways that are almost too numerous to count, but there’s a trade-off. We didn’t have as many choices in the age before cell phones and the internet, but most of us could rely on a pension that was provided for us, risk free, by a company that assumed all of the responsibility for our retirement. So, the trade-off has been that we now have more individual freedom in the form of greater choices, but we have less security in that employers no longer take on the responsibility for providing us with a secure retirement. Under the pension system, workers didn’t have a choice about how their retirement would be funded. The company took care of everything.
Those days are gone. Providing for a secure retirement is now another of the many “choices” we are free to make on a daily basis.
It’s up to us and, apparently, left to our own smart devices, we are not faring well.
Only a third of working Americans are saving money in an employer-sponsored or tax-deferred retirement account, according to U.S. Census Bureau’s recent figures. And, according to the Economic Policy Institute, the average retirement savings of all families in America is just $95,776.
Even those frightening numbers don’t tell the whole story because many of the surveyed families reported zero savings, with ultra-wealthy families pulling up the average. A more accurate gauge may be the median savings rate, or those at the 50th percentile, which is genuinely eye-opening. The median for all families in the U.S. is just $5,000, and the median for families who report that they have some is $60,000. That amount will provide you with just $200 per month to live on, assuming the generally agreed upon four percent withdrawal rate to preserve your principle.
In the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring the crisis in American retirement planning and providing tips for choosing the best options available to you. Next week, we’ll show you what you should consider your first source for building your retirement account.