Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Boomer Bummer: Many of Us are Still Not There

Boomers take note: we still aren't at the enviable position of having enough money in our retirement plans to allow us to outlive those reserves. Should it come as a surprise that our retirement plans have not made us comfortable enough to suggest that we won't run out of money?

In the July 2010 EBRI Issue Brief, written by EBRI Research Director Jack VanDerhei and senior research associate Craig Copeland detail the travails of various cohorts in the pursuit of outliving your retirement nest-egg.

What they found was a "don't-feel-bad-for-yourself" moment we should all take note of: the rich can become less so in retirement, just like us. Okay, most of us have a greater chance of outliving our money as compared to the highest income brackets.  But the thought does have some comfort but few lessons.

The EBRI Retirement Readiness Rating™ is based on EBRI's Retirement Security Projection Model® (RSPM), which the institute first used in 2003 to evaluate national retirement income adequacy seeks to portray where we are in terms of retirement in the hope that we can make the changes we need to our plans (such as 401(k)s) while we are still working.  It is also designed to show advisers which steps to take to protect their clients.

The latest version of the survey includes auto-enrollment and auto-escalation of contributions in 401(k) plans, which have come as a result of changes on the legislative level.  It also includes updates for financial market performance and the often chaotic state of employee behavior.  The report is based on a database of 24 million 401(k) participants.

By simply looking at how much has already been accumulated across this wide swath of workers, they were able to determine when the money will run out.

The results after 10 years of retirement:
Lowest-income quartile: 41 percent are likely to run short of money.
Next-lowest quartile: 23 percent.
Third income quartile: 13 percent.
Highest-income quartile: 5 percent.
After 20 years of retirement:
Lowest-income quartile: 57 percent are likely to run short of money.
Next-lowest quartile: 44 percent.
Third quartile: 29 percent.
Highest-income quartile: 13 percent.

But what does "running short of money" actually mean?  The ERBI study used a combination of basic expenses based on information obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Survey.  This also includes the biggest unknown but the highest projected retirement costs: health care.  By adding the cost of some health insurance and out-of-pocket health-related expenses, plus expenses from nursing home and home health care expenses, at least until the point they are picked up by Medicaid, the nest-egg most of us have will be under serious stress in a relatively short time.

While there have been some improvements in how much money we have currently accumulated, the group referred to as the early Boomers, those aged 56 to 62, the likelihood of running out of money has improved since the survey began.  But it still sees 46% of this group with less than adequate assets to cover the basic needs in retirement.  Late Boomers are only slightly better prepared with 44% likely to run short.

In short, we haven't put enough money to work for our plans to be successful.  We haven't allowed the plans to use the risk available to grow the plans the way they need to be nurtured.  And we have not harnessed our own budgets in such a way as to alleviate the pressures that accumulated debt takes away from our ability to save and invest more.

Paul Petillo is the Managing Editor of and a fellow Boomer.


Kevin Stelfox said...

Love the terminology Boomer Bummer. Keep up the great work

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Unknown said...

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