Americans are less prepared for retirement today than they were at the height of the Great Recession, which is bad news since Americans are living longer.
A new survey shows a large percentage of American workers have virtually no savings or investments, and nearly one-third have zero confidence that they will be able to retire comfortably. What’s more, men are projected to live to age 85, while women are living upwards of 87-years-old.
Research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) released Tuesday found 57% of U.S. workers have less than $25,000 in total household savings and investments, excluding their homes. In 2008, 49% reported having 25,000 saved up, excluding their home.
To add to the bleak outlook, 28% said they have no confidence that they will have enough money to retire in comfort, the highest level in the 23-year history of the EBRI study. Only 66% report having any retirement savings, compared to 75% of workers in 2009.
Not only are workers not saving for retirement, it’s not even a top financial concern. Despite some recent bright spots in the labor market, job uncertainty was the most pressing financial issue both workers (30%) and retirees (27%) named in the EBRI survey, with making ends meet coming in second with 12% for both groups. Only 2% of workers and 4% of retirees named retirement saving a pressing financial issue.
Many workers (41%) named cost of living and day-to-day expenses as their top reason for not contributing more to their employer’s retirement plans. Only 46% said they have calculated what they would need to save in order to live comfortably in retirement, EBRI says.
Debt is also a hurdle to retirement savings, with 55% of workers naming it an issue and 39% of retirees. Only around half of both groups reported they could fund a $2,000 unexpected expense within the next month.
For many, retiring before age 65 is not a reality, says Nick Scheumann, wealth partner at Hefty Wealth Partners. It can be tough for older workers to stay in the labor market for longer than expected for both health and happiness reasons, but there are options to help make ends meet.
“Find something that would at least make you happier to do. You may not have ‘Golden Years,’ but can have golden moments,” says Scheumann.
For cash-strapped consumers facing retirement just around the corner, Scheumann offers the following tips:
No. 1: Make sure you have enough to pay for health insurance. Scheumann says having enough savings to cover health insurance should be a priority. “Put aside those retirement stories of having your feet in the sand and reading a book on the beach, and make sure you stay within your means.”
No. 2: Learn to live on less. Start cutting back on your expenses while still working to not only shore up finances, but to get used to living more humbly. “Have a year’s worth of data, or at least six month’s worth, that says you can do bologna sandwiches, no vacations and minimal presents for your kids or grandkids,” he says.
No. 3: Make sure what you do have saved is properly allocated. Make sure you are getting the most out of your investments, but still minimize your risk, especially since you can’t afford to lose anything.
“If you are already behind [in saving] I wouldn’t bet everything on red,” he says, “I wouldn’t go to the wall with investments hoping they will double every three-to-four years because we are not in that economy as far as the markets go. You have to have the correct measured amount of risk for the assets you have left.”