Nowadays, it's much easier to imagine retirement than it is to actually retire. You've probably seen the sobering statistics about Boomers who have no choice but to continue to work for years beyond the traditional retirement age. Many Boomers have not saved enough to comfortably support themselves into their 80s or even 90s. Life expectancy is increasing, even as vehicles for retirement savings have either dried up or remained stagnant.
A recent survey by Lexington Law indicated that 24 percent of seniors said their biggest regret was not saving and investing sooner. The other most common regret is taking on too much credit card debt. A separate poll by the firm revealed two shocking statistics: 70 percent of respondents did not know the age at which Social Security benefits begin, and less than half know how much of their earnings they should be contributing to retirement savings.
In the past, pensions were a legitimate source of retirement savings. In 1998, for example, an estimated 60 percent of employees were covered by company pension plans. Today, pension plans barely exist. Instead, Boomers have had to self-fund retirement savings, and they do receive help from their employers through matching contributions to 401(k) plans. Thankfully, the majority of companies do offer some type of defined benefit retirement plan such as a 401(k), but it is the employee who shoulders the bulk of the financial responsibility.
Typically, the other main source of retirement income is attributed to Social Security. The money you put into Social Security over your employed years does come back to you in some form, of course. Most financial experts agree, however, that it is best to hold off on collecting as long as possible, certainly until your full retirement age (which varies based on your birth year), if not until age 70, when you collect the maximum amount. Some Boomers are sorely disappointed when they realize that Social Security payments are not nearly what they need to live on in retirement.
With no pensions, modest 401(k)s or other retirement savings plans, and Social Security that barely keeps up with living expenses, there is a looming retirement crisis in our country. Boomers who have not by now set aside sufficient retirement funds will be thrown head first into this crisis when they stop earning income. There is a glimmer of hope that the job market will continue to be favorable toward Boomers, at least on a part-time basis, but there is no long-term guarantee that jobs will be available to aging Americans. This may be one reason a fairly high percentage of Boomers start their own businesses or find freelance work rather than compete in the traditional job market.
The oldest Boomers are already approaching their mid-70s. How financially secure are they? The youngest Boomers will be 60 in just five years. Do they have a financial plan for retirement? These are challenging questions to ponder.