NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Americans Who Don't Save Now Will Pay Later

June 5, 2001

According to a recent Congressional Research Service report, 61 percent of all Americans between the ages of 24 and 64 have no retirement savings account of any kind -- IRA, 401(k), Keogh or Roth IRA. Only, as financial writer Scott Burns puts it, a deep belief in the Tooth Fairy.

Things don't get much better for those who have some kind of retirement account according to the report, "Retirement Savings and Household Wealth in 1998: Analysis of Census Bureau Data," by researcher Patrick J. Purcell.

  • According to the study, 42.5 million workers have some kind of retirement savings account.
  • The average account has a value of $34,700 and the median amount put aside (half are larger, half are smaller) is only $14,000.
  • But the majority of those ages 55 to 64 (53 percent) had no account and the median balance was less than $25,000.
  • The average value of the same accounts -- higher due to the weight of some very large accounts -- was $57,331, which is enough to purchase a level, single-life annuity that would pay the retiree $450 per month.

The good news is that the number of people participating in 401(k) type plans is growing rapidly. From about 7.5 million people with assets of less than $92 million in 1984, defined contribution plans had 30.8 million participants in 1996 with $1 trillion in assets.

However, that still leaves 66 million who aren't planning for retirement.

Source: Scott Burns, "Americans May Pay By Not Savings," Dallas Morning News, June 5, 2001.


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