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Seniors in the U.S. will likely total almost 75 million within a decade. That translates into 20 percent of our population. But age doesn’t determine success and we must make sure our seniors can seize the new opportunities available to them. Businesses will have to creatively plan ahead to meet their needs.
Our nation was designed for growth and individual freedom. It has proven against all odds that it adapts well to change, innovation and free markets.
Bank of America recently estimated the longevity market could exceed $600 billion by 2025 due to related advances in transportation, housing, food, personalized medicine, Big Data and other technologies such as health tracking devices people will wear as seamlessly as clothing accessories. But at the same time, many in Middle America are showing significant gaps in their retirement savings.
Recently commissioned polls found 30 percent of Boomers (those aged 55-73) have less than $100,000 in retirement savings. Almost half of Generation X (aged 42-54) have less than $100,000 in retirement accounts.
How did this happen? Low lifetime wages, sudden job loss, children’s college tuitions and caring for their own aging parents, as well as student debt, often drain the resources of would-be retirees. Additionally, unexpected health costs and longer life spans only aggravate a precarious financial condition.
The size of retirement nest eggs
The Trump administration and Congress are right to focus on middle-class job creation—that is where the heat of global economic competition has been centered and many Americans have suffered. As such, the current economic growth we enjoy is essential to maintain.
Liberal opinion often thinks Wall Street is the exclusive beneficiary of robust economic times but jobs, countless pensions, IRAs, 401(k)s, and retirement and private savings accounts prosper during these important cycles.
Unfortunately, politics gets in the way of reasoned discourse in most instances, in particular during prosperous economic times. These strong economic cycles are not random. They are a function of pro-growth, free-market policies and do not last forever.
If the economy slows down or slips into a recession, it would likely cause a serious decline in the size of retirement nest eggs. It is also likely that fewer people would be able to stay employed or find supplemental retirement jobs.
We remain a politically divided country, but we must unite on the looming issue of retirement security for Americans. There is no crisis now as long as we maintain our powerful economy.
This senior Boomer generation is going to remain engaged, productive and interested in meaningful pursuits. But it will require income generating activity due to the happy fact we are living longer.
There is a real fear of future Social Security benefit cuts, and there are no simple solutions to address this concern. In the years ahead, Americans need not only be concerned with their share of the national debt, currently exceeding $16.2 trillion on national debt, but also the crushing weight of unfunded liabilities that Medicare and Social Security represent. The latest report from the trustees of these programs shows $59 trillion in long-term unfunded liabilities.
Now is the time to fast track enhanced 401(k) legislation in order to broaden and accelerate savings. Such legislation, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, H.R. 1994, was passed last week by the full House of Representatives in a 417-3 vote.
We need to move aggressively to encourage private sector options such as better senior-oriented job seeking technology and advancements in home care networks. Boomers have a long history of independence and enjoy embracing new challenges. As Jeri Sedler, the co-author of "Don’t Retire, Rewire” reminds us: “Finding your second wind only takes a little planning."
Let’s not cheat ourselves out of an important opportunity to improve our future.
Clara Del Villar is the director of senior initiatives at FreedomWorks.