Do you feel a sense of unease in the pit of your stomach when you look at the balance in your savings account? For that matter, do you even have a savings account? What about a retirement account?
If your answer is, “Yes, I do feel uneasy,” and “No, I do not have a retirement account,” you are far from alone. It is very difficult to make ends meet these days. Ever since the recession, it has been hard to come by good money—and a lot of us lost money during those tough years. It does not help that a lot of the problems in our economy which led to the recession still exist, including a huge divide between the wealthy and the poor.
Comparing Where You Stand
Just how bad is the retirement situation in our country? Well, first of all, consider the average American’s net worth. Check out the chart at the link and you will see the average net worth for various age groups. Just so you know, your “percentile” is based on how old you are and how much money you make. So if you are under 35, and you have $6,000 in net worth, you are in the 50th percentile—which means you are actually doing better than around 50% of your peers.
So in a comparative sense, chances are good that you are doing better than you think relative to others. Even if you have no net worth at all and you are under 35, technically you are in the 30th percentile, so this accounts for a huge chunk of the Millennial population.
The Oncoming Retirement Crisis
The bad news is that just because your situation is not unique (or necessarily your fault) does not mean that you are on track, or that your future is at all secure.
There are a number of reasons why we are looking at a growing retirement crisis:
- Despite inflation, wages have remained more or less the same for decades. Yes, the dollar amounts have adjusted upward, but not at a rate to keep up with inflation.
- More and more jobs are being paid at minimum wage.
- A large number of jobs are also disappearing thanks to automation.
- Even among people who feasibly can start saving for retirement, most do not have a clue where to begin. Many people in the Boomer generation who tried to save ended up getting conned out of a lot of their money, which has the younger generations feeling leery.
- Many Americans underestimate how long they will live. So even if they are proactively saving for retirement, they are planning on living only into their 70s or until age 80 or so. But experts are beginning to advise saving enough to live until age 95.
- Many people who fail to save for retirement do so because they simply cannot imagine ever being that old. Because they cannot connect emotionally to their future self, they feel like they are saving money for a stranger. As a result, they do not save.
- A lot of Millennials are planning to fall back on inheritance. While this may be enough to take care of them (assuming the money is there), it will not necessarily leave them with anything to pass on to their own children.
What you can do about all this depends on where you stand. If you are barely making ends meet each month, you probably cannot afford to put much toward your retirement yet. Right now it is time to focus on finding ways to cut expenses, even if you already are living modestly. Live as far below your means as you possibly can. If you need to, consider a second job.
If you do have money to invest, consider getting a financial advisor. Research has found that households which work with a financial advisor are far more likely to have ample funds set aside for retirement. If you cannot afford to work with a human advisor, you can work with a robo-advisor.
Saving for retirement nowadays is extremely difficult, but in many circumstances, it is not entirely impossible. Do not plan to fall back on social security or inheritance; there is no way to know what the future will bring. Give yourself as much of a safety net as you can, and you will hopefully live well even if you survive well into your 90s.