This Halloween, the real ghoul one should be worried about isn’t a spirit, a ghost, or someone dressed up like a monster – it’s the threat of a potentially insecure retirement.
Below, we share five facts about the retirement security crisis that are guaranteed to scare you more than any horror movie.
1. Most Americans don’t have anything saved for retirement.
According to a study from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), 57 percent of working-age Americans do not own any assets in a retirement account. That’s more than 103 million Americans. The same study also found that the median retirement account balance for all working-age individuals (regardless of whether they had a retirement account or not) is $0.00.
2. A higher cost of living and student loans make it difficult for workers to save for retirement.
Forty-seven percent of Americans say an increasing cost of living is the biggest threat to their financial security, and there is evidence that supports their view. According to a 2017 Federal Reserve survey, 40 percent of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency expense such as an unexpected medical bill, car problem, or home repair.
Furthermore, student loan debt is also a major hindrance for workers to save enough for retirement. Seventy-three percent of Americans are putting off maximizing their retirement savings due to their student loans and 26 percent are not saving for retirement at all because of their student loans.
3. The rise of 401(k)s has been a disaster for workers’ retirement security.
As late as 1980, almost half of all private-sector employers had an employer-sponsored pension plan. That began to change, however, with the passage of the Revenue Act two years earlier, which created the modern-day defined-contribution plan known as the 401(k). These plans were never intended to be the primary retirement savings account for workers, and companies started switching their employees from defined-benefit plans to 401(k)s when they realized that doing so would save them money. Now, more than 58 million Americans participate in a 401(k), with poor results for their retirement outlook. According to Fidelity Investments, the median amount in its 401(k) accounts is a paltry $24,500, which is inadequate for a secure retirement.
4. The gender pay gap persists in retirement.
According to NIRS, women aged 65 and older have 83 percent of the median household income that men in the same age group have. The study also found that women are more likely to work part-time, which means they don’t have the same access to employer-sponsored retirement plans. Women are also more likely to leave the labor force to provide caregiving, which affects their ability to save for retirement.
5. Many older workers continue working because they can’t afford to retire.
According to the AARP, as of February 2019, more than 20 percent of adults over the age of 65 are either working or looking for work. This number has doubled since 1995 when it was 10 percent. One reason for this is that many seniors cannot afford to retire. In one survey, more than six out of ten people aged 65 and older said they were continuing to work into retirement for financial reasons.
The current state of retirement security doesn’t just have spiders and cobwebs, however. Thankfully, most public employees across the country still have access to a defined-benefit pension. These are important to protect because they help employers recruit and retain employees, offer a way for employees to retire at a cheaper cost than 401(k)s, and collectively pool risk among their members, meaning they do not place all of the investment risks for retirement on individuals like 401(k)s do.
This Halloween, it may not be possible to get a costume about retirement insecurity, but you can keep in mind these five facts when adversaries try to unfairly attack public workers’ retirement security.