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Boomers terrified about retirement

Nearly all their anticipated safety nets have developed gaping holes, and few have saved enough.

By doubleace Apr 11, 2011 9:05AM

This post comes from Lynn Mucken at MSN Money.

The baby boomers' exuberant rush toward retirement has hit a wall. It's called reality.

Paid-off home? Owe more than it's worth. Company pension? What's that? Social Security and Medicare? In Republican crosshairs. Savings? The electronic age is not cheap, ya know.

The first of the 77 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 are turning 65 this year, and they're scared. An Associated Press poll revealed that only 11% are strongly convinced they will be able to live in comfort. Forty-four percent express little or no confidence they’ll have enough money in retirement, and 25% say they'll never be able to quit working.

Their pessimism seems justified.  Post continues after video.

One in four boomers admit they have no savings, according to the AP poll. And nearly 60% say their workplace retirement plans, personal investments or real estate have lost value since the economy nearly went belly up in 2008.

"The days of mortgage-burning parties are over," wrote U.S. News and World Report. "Carrying debt into retirement means seniors will have to cut back on discretionary expenses."


"I am one of those baby boomers," "ssw319" wrote to the Detroit Free Press. "I have some money put away but not enough to retire on it. … Yes I do worry each and every day."

And yet the dream dies hard in many cases. Despite the fact that only 10% report household retirement savings of $500,000, and that the 64% who report "some savings" average just $100,000 (a couple of years pay, at most), only about a third of boomers say it's likely that they'll have to make do with a more modest lifestyle once they retire, the AP reported. Only about 1 in 4 expect to struggle just to pay their expenses.

Financial experts say such expectations are not realistic.

"Most families have to make a significant adjustment from their working lives to their retirement years," financial planner Sheryl Garrett, who runs the Garrett Planning Network, told AP.


"The burden for figuring out how to retire has shifted from the employer and government to the individual," Jonathan Pond, a financial planner and author of "Safe Money in Tough Times: Everything You Need to Know to Survive the Financial Crisis," told U.S. News.

Says Marc Freedman, author of "Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life": "People are moving into a new life stage. They want an identity, they want a paycheck, and they want a sense that their experience is going to good use. It might be smart to make an upfront investment in education or do an internship. Recognize that you are investing in a career that might be 10 or 25 years in duration." 


And the boomers can't expect help, or even sympathy, from the generations behind them, if these two comments on the poll in the Detroit Free Press are any indication.


"Thanks boomers," wrote "motoguy128." "Yet again stealing from your children. Working longer means you're taking jobs away from your children and grandchildren. … (You) ran the banks and businesses that drove us into recession. Your children and grandchildren hopefully have used you as an example of what not to do."

Equally unsympathetic was "achmedkeelU666": "What's new? That's why it's also called the "Me Generation." They'll just drain the money out of Social Security, destroy the environment for their precious oil, bury all the garbage so that Generations X, Y and Z have to figure out how to rectify the earth, and whine about how no one looks out after them."

More from MSN Money:

Apr 12, 2011 1:52PM

I find it particularly interesting that the younger generation is "blaming" us for the problems with Social Security.   What they don't realize is that the monies we paid into this account for the past 45+ years that we have worked went to support an older senior through retirement; now, when WE need's been drained by our government to use for other things.  They've borrowed and borrowed from the Social Security account for years and have NOT paid back any of the IOU's that were issued, so now we're left with nothing after the years of paying into the account (involuntarily, I might add).   AND, the younger generation is blaming US for this problem.....we didn't decimate the money; the Government did!   We paid it in just like we were supposed to; just like the younger generation is being asked to do.....involuntarily​.   If I had the opportunity to take ALL the money that was taken out of my check for the 45+ years that I've worked and put  it in a personal savings account or an would be MORE than sufficient to support me.  As it is....even with my OWN 401K plan and my company's pension plan, I still have to work until I'm 70 and PRAY that the current administration doesn't "steal" the money from me that I've been paying in for years and years.   The younger generation needs to stop blaming the boomers for this's a problem for ALL of us! 

Apr 11, 2011 8:24PM
Im laughing my a$$ off the reason most cant retire is because of there children trying to keep up with there friends. i.e  Cell phones for 10 year olds and dont stop there we need  $ 200.00 dollar tennis shoes $ 200.00 pair of pants that hang below there a$$ and dont forget college and they say were the one sucking them dry there the generation of IM TO LAZY TO GET A JOB ill just have mom and dad buy it for me . well thats the way I see it anyway
Apr 12, 2011 2:13PM
The younger people need to "learn" from this now. Remove those headphones and put down the phone. Know one has ever said I started saving too early or too much. Even if it's just a few bucks a month you need to take care of yourself now.
Apr 12, 2011 2:41PM
Why don't you ask older retired people how they determined what they needed to retire?  Someone who has done it successfully  would certainly be able to tell others the secret.  Admittedly some were just lucky. Others had a plan which they implemented and which worked.  It seems to me they main problem with retirement is that people are failing to sit down and realistically plan in advance.  A plan should insure that errors in calculations  are considered.  A plan should insure considering a realistic rate of inflation.  A plan should include  a calculation which considers the market cycles and decline in investments resulting from these cycles.  A plan should be an intelligent implementation of a program for retirement.  Believe it or not, there are hundreds of thousands of currently retire people who have been successful in their retirement by following a plan.
Apr 11, 2011 6:02PM
Wait a second.  The big programs have been in trouble for as long as I have been old enough to pay attention, and all of a sudden they're "in Republican crosshairs"?  I'm not even close to retirement age and I've long since quit counting on that stuff being solvent!  If you're just now freaking out, it's about time you got with the program.
Apr 11, 2011 11:09AM
Been retired for eight years now. Interesting place. Most 401k's are gone after the first couple of years. The country really needs the pension plan again. The bucks show up every month. The biggest disappointment so far was medicare. You pay for it all those working years(45) then when you retire they make you pay for it. Boo! What about the capitalistic plan of paying your own way? As far as one retiring and the other working that is for others. Marriage is a equal partnership and good for one is good for the other. Old school Guy would rather bank on heaven than money. It will be worth more and last longer.
Apr 12, 2011 2:23PM

Retirement's been a hit or miss proposition for quite some time now.  We've all seen this coming and continued to buy expensive cars, houses, vacations, and given the kids everything they want.  Couple that with no pensions, rising health care, and dead houses and a monkey could have written this article.


Retirement isn't guaranteed by the Constitution, but it should be attainable for everyone.  Why have we made such a mess of it?

Apr 12, 2011 2:10PM
well I got years and years to go until I hit retirement age, however a lot of the comments are correct about my generation and the generations after me.  People in my generation did expected for years for mommie and daddie to pay for everything.  Including those $200 shoes and $200 t-shirts as well as the $200 pants.  Though I never did recieve a Cell phone at age 10 being that Cell phones what I was age 10 were the size for your arm, didn't flip only had 1 ring setting and you maybe got 30 minutes of talk time out of the battery.  I believe my generation is refered to commonly as the Awards generation.   Not because we do great things but because were babied by our parents the boomers because they're parents didn't baby them, and they wanted something better for they're children.  I'm not blaming the boomers for the lack of cash and I'm not blaming later generations or mine for that matter.  I just find it amusing that there are people out there they have taken the time to save and those that haven't start pointing fingers at everyone else.  FYI people its your owned damned fault for counting on someone else to pay your way.  If anything the boomers parents should have taught them is to never rely on anyone but yourself.  And anything that was learned from the boomers is never to accept handouts it will only hurt you in the long run.
Apr 12, 2011 2:18PM

I hate to say it, but you can count me in with the unsympathetic. The time to be worried about retirement was 30 years ago when you still had enough time to plan and save for it. If you were expecting anybody else to do it for you, then consider this your introduction to reality. You’re in this on your own and you can’t count on anybody but yourself. I realize broken social security and false pension promises haven’t made this any easier, but that’s no excuse. Depending on other people to pay for your retirement is like betting your retirement on a big win in Vegas. Sure, it might happen, but are you willing to take that risk? It seems a lot of people are, and now they’re finding out it was a bad choice. It’s probably of little consolation, but as I look around at my peers in Gen X, and from what I’ve seen of Gen Y, we are making the same mistakes. I suspect we won’t fare any better when our turn comes…

Apr 12, 2011 2:49PM

I have a hard time feeling bad for baby boomers. They were in their prime through 25 years of tremendous growth (1980s - mid-2000s) and they squandered their income by spending beyond their means and not saving (smartly, conservatively).


I'm from the Gen X (mid-late 30s) and most of our generation realizes that "retirement" is a pie in the sky novelty that our grandparents enjoyed, but those coming after them will never really have. The younger generation (teens, 20s) has an even darker view on this.


The kicker is that we're putting into the Social Security bucket and we'll never get that money back because boomers will drain it and the government has spent it. It's not a pretty sight for anyone. It's going to be a struggle for all generations (young, old) to find the new reality and keep this country growing at the same time.

Apr 12, 2011 3:21PM

A lot of people are commenting about lack of sympathy for people, and I understand that for those who were capable but did not plan.  The people who had good paying jobs for a majority of their lives but ran up 20k in credit card debt, and (insert every shrill spendthrift insult here).  I'm sure we've all known those people or ran across them.


But people don't seem to be considering the fact that 50% of the country doesn't pay income taxes, and that the median household income is roughly $50,000 dollars.  Cutting through the statistical crap, half of the Americans in the US don't have time to think about savings or investments, or retirement.  They are focused on paying rent and feeding themselves and their families.  Their retirement plan is work until they die.


This article doesn't address that at all.  It's made for its audience and isn't focused on real "Americans" and the situation that a vast majority of them are in.  Besides the author taking the obligatory MSNBC swipe at Republicans with SS and Medicare at the beginning ultimately showed the immediate bias of the author.  As an independent who is completely disgusted with both parties this just shows the faulty prism people are looking at the world through.  SS and Medicare trust funds are mythical ledger entries. Maddoff made a milder ponzi scheme and he ended up in prison for life.  They are and were vote buying tools for sheeple consumption.


As Americans we better start looking to personal responsibility for retirement.  That along with figuring out where and how we managed to take a largely middle class society and shift it to a moneyed oligarchy.  With the top 5% owning most everything the bottom 50% owning nothing but debt or being perpetually dependent, and the ones in-between joining the bottom or struggling to just keep their position. 


I don't fault the top 5%, this game has certain rules at the moment and they just played by those rules better then everyone else.  We need to figure out how to change those rules to get things back in balance.  Complaining about everything else is a waste of time.  They are symptoms of the disease in which we currently find ourselves within.  A disease that the boomer generation and their parents (in part) created, be it through their naivety, malice, selfishness, or neglect, but one the younger crowd is going to have to undo.

Apr 12, 2011 2:30PM
Do you wonder how many of that 10% with adequate retirement are government employees?
Apr 13, 2011 8:27AM

Many Boomers did not have extra money to save or had their pensions ripped away.  Some lost their gains and some of their principal in a 401 K.


Maybe if you are rich and live on Wall Street or Hollywood  then you can believe that SS was designed to be a safety net.  In the small town I came from, it was the sole retirement income.


Up until the fleecing of America you didn't hear that Social Security is a safety net or that it needs to be means tested.


I always believed that Social Security is a barebones retirement.  My parents lived on Social Security only.  They were saving people and they didn't spend money unless it was absolutely necessary.  They had lived through the great depression.


Social Security apparently is going to be turned into some kind of Welfare because they are wanting to means test it.  We need to stand against this.  The younger generations are paying more than ever for Social Security and Medicare and should get the benefits uncut.


They  powers that be want to take away programs that we pay for, so we will have to grovel at their feet and they can pay slave wages.  They say we need to be competitive over seas so they try to take away benefits of the people who work.  They could take less profits.


The boomers that had power have let us down, but don't hate the 98% of the rest of us who did what we were told and paid our payroll taxes and put money in a 401k.  Now we face cuts to Medicare, Social Security and most lost a lot of money a few years ago when Wall Street got drunk.  We don't deserve the hostility. 



Apr 12, 2011 3:18PM
62, 65, or 70?  What's it matter?  The government is 14 trillion in the hole, 5 trillion of which they borrowed from Social Security.   They don't have the money to pay off the IOU's they wrote so they changing the rules on you.  I don't think they ever intended to pay it back.  At the least, they will just raise taxes like the last time they declared social security was in trouble.  This time, expect them to raise taxes and reduce benefits so they can continue to steal from social security.   You probably going to have to go back to work anyways because what you get from social security, if anything, is just not going to be enough.  Starting early won't make that much of difference one way or the other but at least you get to enjoy some time off before you have to go back to work.
Apr 12, 2011 4:36PM

Hey, I totally agree with Paano, history leesion folks - SS was designed to be a safety net for those people who were not lucky enough to have a retirement package, those people were usually workers in some of the most hazardous occupations around (think construction and mining). Back in the day you could work for most companies, and after 25 years get the Gold Watch and a reasonable retirement. Also folks back then were lucky to live to age 70. Now fast forward to today, it has only been in the last 15 or so years that the 401(K) has been a prevelent vehicle for retirement. Up until then companies were still giving reasonable retirements (albeit only about 50% of them) and SS was fully funded and had a surplus! Then after the government started tapping into SS and 'Borrowing' from it to pay the bills (Blame Reganomics for that...and the great arms race) we now have trillions and trillions of dollars owed to it from the federal government, and now what do we have to show for it? NOTHING! So those of us who worked for companies who yanked out the rug from the Boomers and left us high and dry because they could, were not left with 45 years to get it together, but rather 20 years to play catch up.


I'm not saying we are not to blame, I am saying that there is more blame to be thorwn at the feet of the government and the Republicans tryng to remake our country into a serfdom. Now, what would you rather have, a 15th centurn sefdom? Or a government that cares for ALL it's people, the way Roosevelt intended.......


Apr 12, 2011 4:17PM

proud gen x will be inheriting a third-world sh*thole of a planet. Hope you can fix it, boy. As for me, I'll be dead before I hit retirement age 12 years from now. That's the way it goes. So it doesn't matter to me if "boomers" are scared sh*tless or not. 99% of the planet's population needs to be eradicated anyway for being stupid.


I wake up, have my coffee, and I'm content. The problems of the world aren't in my department. Folks leave me be, I leave them be, and everything's fine. Y'all want to whine about the way things are, that's your perogative. Not me. I have better things to do.

Apr 12, 2011 2:25PM

Not enough oil for continued growth. U.S. oil production peaked in 1970, but when will the world peak? We are failing to realize that retirement will be subsistence farming, not travelling the world on jet airliners.

Apr 13, 2011 2:50PM
This is the age group that showed up at the polls last Nov.
They voted in favor of tax cuts for the super rich and large corporations.
They voted for higher health care costs and cuts in Social Security and Medicare.
Looks like they got their wish.

May 23, 2011 9:56AM
Well as one of the "boomer's" I can say that I really feel sorry for some of the people I worked with They were the ones that planned on funding their retirement during the last 10 years of employment. A lot of them are stocking shelves, pushing carts, and driving school buses with no retirement in sight. Sure it was partly their fault for waiting until it was to late in the game, but it was also the companys fault for laying off their highly skilled workers before they reached retirement age. At the time I left the company I only knew two workers that were over sixty. I left when I reached 55 with enough money to retire because I started saving when I was young. For anyone that is young, do you think that your company is going to employ you for the next 30 years? Do you think that what you do now is going to be valid skill in 30 years? if not, have a backup plan. Social security may or may not be around when you retire, and if you think that you're paying for my Social security, tell O'bummer to just give me the $50K that I put in at no interest and will call it even.
Apr 13, 2011 8:37AM
Tthere's a reason why they called it the "Me" generation.  It's like that commercial sings: "I want it all, and I want it now." 
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