New study: most Americans have not saved enough for their retirement

Building a castle isn't easy - it takes work
Building a castle isn’t easy – it takes work

This story is from CNBC, and I hope it causes you young people to count the cost of your plans.

It says:

A new GAO analysis finds that among households with members aged 55 or older, nearly 29 percent have neither retirement savings nor a traditional pension plan.

“There hasn’t been a significant increase in wages, people have student loans and other debt, and many are continuing to struggle financially,” said Charles Jeszeck, the GAO’s director of education, workforce and income security, which analyzed the Federal Reserve’s 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances to come up with its estimates. “We aren’t surprised that people have not saved a lot for retirement.”

Even among those who do have retirement savings, their nest eggs are small. The agency found the median amount of those savings is about $104,000 for households with members between 55 and 64 years old and $148,000 for households with members 65 to 74 years old. That’s equivalent to an inflation-protected annuity of $310 and $649 per month, respectively, according to the GAO.

Americans underestimate how much money is needed in order to retire:

Estimates about the size and scope of the retirement savings problem vary widely, the GAO found. In addition to examining the Survey of Consumer Finances, it reviewed nine studies conducted between 2006 and 2015 by a variety of organizations, including academics, benefits consultant Aon Hewitt, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and the Investment Company Institute. Based on these reports, it concluded that one-third to two-thirds of workers are at risk of falling short of their retirement savings targets, in part because of the range of assumptions about how much income is required in retirement.

Given that we have been inflating the currency and running low interest rates for the last few years, any savings you have will buy less than they buy today.

Here’s another really key point:

The research that the GAO examined consistently showed that people aged 55 to 64 are less confident about their retirement and plan to work longer to afford retirement. However, a 2012 study by the EBRI found that about half of retirees said they retired earlier than planned because of health problems, changes at their workplace or having to care for a spouse or another family member. This suggests “that many workers may be overestimating their future retirement income and savings,” wrote GAO researchers.

Got that? When young people make plans about the future, they underestimate the risks and overestimate their own abilities.

Don't rely on Social Security, young snowflakes
Don’t rely on Social Security, precious little snowflakes

Investors Business Daily has been posting a lot about Social Security, and they are saying that payouts are going to be dropping sooner than you think.

Look:

Every year, the Social Security Administration releases its Trustees Report, which projects the program’s solvency — how much it will take in, how much it will pay out and how long the “trust fund” can cover revenue gaps — over the next 75 years.

The latest report says that Social Security can meet its financial obligations for about 18 more years. After that, the trust fund will be exhausted, and payroll taxes won’t cover nearly all the benefit costs.

That’s bad enough. But a new study by researchers at Harvard and Dartmouth shows that this day of reckoning will almost certainly come far sooner than that.

The authors compare previous Trustees Report forecasts about life expectancy, fertility rates and other variables to actual results. They found that these forecasts have grown increasingly unreliable.

Worse, since 2000 “the direction of the biases are all in the same direction, making the Social Security trust funds look healthier than they turned out to be.”

For example, Social Security has been consistency underestimating life expectancy, which means that people are living and collecting benefits for longer than predicted. Underestimating life expectancy by just 1.3 years leads to 150,000 more people collecting benefits than predicted, the researchers note.

The Trustees Report has also overestimated the nation’s fertility rate. In 2010, for example, 315,000 fewer children were born than predicted. This error makes the population look younger, which in turn makes Social Security’s financial outlook seem healthier.

Likewise, the report has consistently overestimated the Trust Fund’s assets and solvency.

Many of these forecasts are so bad that the actual results are often worse than the report’s “worst case” scenario, which currently has the program becoming insolvent in just 14 years.

Don’t be depending on Social Security if you are under 50 – it’s not going to be there for you, even though you’re going to be paying into it.

When young people imagine what the future will be like, they almost always underestimate the things that can go wrong. They are so optimistic and inexperienced, that they simply can’t conceive of the possible setbacks, and calculate the probabilities of these occurring. The best way to get around this is to talk to someone who is good at doing what you are trying to do. When I was training as a software engineer, I actually had to take classes in software design to learn how to identify unexpected scenarios. This is because engineers start off the same as everyone else – optimistic. We have to train ourselves to identify dependencies and risks. This is how you design software – by thinking not just of common usage scenarios, but also unexpected disaster scenarios, like power failures and data transmission interruptions and database failures. When it comes to earning and saving money, don’t talk to your inexperienced young friends. Talk to someone a little older who has already been through it, and who is doing a good job at it.

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