Today’s blog post is written by Andrew Collier, NPPC’s Communications Director.
According to a recent National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) report, more than 75 percent of Americans are worried about their ability to attain and sustain financial security in their older years. Additionally, 57 percent of working age adults do not have a retirement account, including a 401(k). Recently, some pundits – and that is really all they are – have come out and said America is not facing a retirement crisis. Unfortunately, the numbers do not lie and in fact, America is facing a long and sustained issue of economic inequality and access to a secure retirement.
In the last couple of years, we have seen story after story of seniors not being able to retire with dignity. This isn’t alarmist, it is a fact. Despite the economy “booming,” a large segment of our population has been left behind. Due to stagnating wages and the overreliance on Social Security as their only source of retirement income, seniors have been forced back into the workforce to make ends meet. Most Americans can point to a least one senior relative who is struggling to get by, which just isn’t right.
What really makes this a crisis, though? If examining the crisis current retirees are facing is not enough, let us take a look at the current status of millennials – those are folks between the ages of 22 and 37 years old right now.
According to NIRS, two-thirds of millennials have nothing saved for retirement. That’s two-thirds of an entire generation not putting a cent away for their golden years. NIRS’ research also found that two-thirds of millennials are offered a retirement plan through their employment, but only a third actually participate. These are staggering numbers considering every financial expert on the planet will tell you the earlier you invest, the better. What is keeping millennials from investing in their retirement? Crippling student debt that takes up a large chuck of their budgets and stagnating wages.
According to Pew (yes, that Pew, who has not always been an ally of NPPC), for most workers, wages have not really budged in decades. Additionally, according to the Federal Reserve, total student loan debt is roughly $1.5 trillion dollars and the average student loan debt for the Class of 2016 was $37,172. How is anyone, especially those coming right out of college, supposed to save for their retirement with such a large debt? The answer is simply, they can not. Hence why only 33 percent of millennials offered an employer sponsored retirement plan actually participate – they simply cannot afford it.
Before listening to pundits, who are paid to breathe fire about anything that is grounded in fact, look at the actual numbers. Not only are current seniors in rough shape, but future generations are too. We can turn the blame toward businesses opting to provide 401(k)s to their employees over a defined benefit pension, but we also need to look at the underlying issues of economic inequality, student loan debt, and wage stagnation. Multiple factors are in play here, and lawmakers need to do better to make sure Americans can retire with dignity and respect.