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August 20 2014

Empty-Nest Egg

Patrice J. Lee

 The economic recovery has been rocky and unfortunately, in addition to good-paying jobs, retirement savings have been left behind.

 A new study finds that 36 percent of Americans have zero saved for their retirement, which will likely cause many to delay retirement and many more to rely on other means to sustain themselves after they’ve left the workforce, including family and public resources.

 Almost 70 percent of Millennials have saved nothing for their retirement and that drops to just 14 percent of current retirees (people ages 65 and above). One quarter of Baby Boomers (50 to 64) and one third of those 30 to 49 have zero in the bank for their retirement. Like securing healthcare, saving for after you leave the workforce is responsible and important, but with competing needs on our incomes and incomes that have not kept up with the rising costs of life, it's not too surprising why so many Americans have not started saving.

 The Christian Science Monitor reports:

 Some of the non-savers told Bankrate that they are planning to work work for their entire lives and don't need to plan for retirement. But Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, said "these people are not considering the potential of a job loss or medical issue that prevents them from working."

 If fewer Americans are planning financially for their long-term futures, it may be because things are getting more expensive in the near term. In another study released Monday, The US Department of Agriculture found that the cost of raising a child born in 2013 to the age of 18 has reached  $245,000. For a high-income family in the urban Northeast, the USDA found, that number could reach $455,000. To boot, those figures don't include college tuition, an expense that continues to balloon. Brian Plain, a financial planner from Oak Park, Ill. said those rising costs and more families living paycheck-to-paycheck that make it harder for families to save for retirement.

 "I think a lot of people want to save, but they keep waiting for the right time," Mr. Plain said in a statement. "They'll say things like, 'When I get my next raise I'll start saving.'"

 Millennials are in tough shape but they may be doing no different from other generations at their age. Tracking their savings habits over the next decade will give us a better understanding.

The reasons for our procrastination are understandable. Millennials are farther away from retirement and so saving for the future isn’t the biggest priority given their limited resources. Speaking of limited resources, with an effective unemployment rate of 15 percent, 18-29 year olds are struggling to find work to even sustain themselves much less save for their future. For those with (good) jobs, they have competing interests for their resources including high student loan debt, which is more than $26,000 on average for those who graduated in 2011. And let’s not forget that ObamaCare mandated healthcare coverage for every American and has eliminated many of the affordable plans that were once on the market.

 Let’s not let government off the hook either. As Reason.org explains, Americans are paying into a financial system from which they will get no returns: Social Secruity. The joke (at which no one really laughs) is that it won’t be around by the time they retire. Social Security has been paying out more than it brings in now for a few years and its trust funds will be totally depleted by the early 2030s (if not sooner) which is well before Millennials will hit retirement age. Yet, 12 percent of our earnings (paid by employers and employees) gets siphoned off without us ever seeing a dime and disappears into the government’s kitty.

 The retirement habits of Americans are another signal that there’s more to our nation’s economic health than headlines and top-line figures suggest. The real impact of this economic recovery plays out in how much Americans have to spend on groceries, their ability to purchase a home, their vacation and leisure activities, and their confidence in finding a new position if they get laid off or leave their jobs.

That’s an economic picture that is far from rosy.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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