NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Workers Saving Too Little to Retire

March 22, 2013

More Americans than ever before will soon be retiring and evidence suggests many are not saving enough for retirement. A combination of financial and demographic forces is making it more difficult for households to prepare for their future, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • An updated 2012 report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) shows that 57 percent of U.S. workers reported less than $25,000 in total household savings and investments, excluding their homes, which represented a 7 percent increase over 2008.
  • Twenty-eight percent of respondents in the survey had no confidence that they will have enough money to retire, which is the highest level in the study's 23-year history.
  • According to the Society of Actuaries, as much as $97 billion could be added to corporate pension liabilities because of rising life expectancy.

Longer lives means more costs must be spread out over the same amount of retirement savings. Many households are struggling to find the extra income to contribute to retirement as living costs have risen in the last decade, particularly during the Great Recession.

  • About 50 percent of the workers and retirees in the EBRI survey said they would be unable to come up with $2,000 if an unexpected need were to arise in the next month.
  • While the survey does not count traditional pensions, which are designed to provide retirees with steady income throughout their lives, the portion of private sector workers who receive these retirement plans has declined significantly.
  • Only 3 percent of workers in 2011 were covered by defined-benefit plans, down from 28 percent in 1979.

For the companies that do offer those plans, they will likely have to kick in extra funds to account for longer life spans.

  • In 2013, a male who retires at age 65 is expected to live an additional 20.5 years and a female who retires at age 65 is expected to live an additional 22.7 years.
  • U.S. pension obligations for all publicly traded companies totaled $1.93 trillion at the end of 2012, up from $1.6 trillion in 2008.

Greater life expectancy and less savings mean that fewer Americans will have enough money to last throughout retirement and companies will face larger pension liabilities.

Source: Kelly Greene and Vipal Monga, "Workers Saving Too Little to Retire," Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2013.


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