The latest release form the Employee Benefit Research Institute portrayed an American worker who has lost confidence in their ability to save enough to retire. According to the report, “The percentage of workers very confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement decreased sharply, from 27 percent in 2007 to 18 percent in 2008, the biggest one-year drop in the 18-year history of the survey. Retiree confidence in having a financially secure retirement also decreased, from 41 percent to 29 percent, a drop of 12 percentage points. Decreases in confidence occurred across all age groups and income levels but was particularly acute among younger workers and those with lower income.”
Those that had already retired, also part of the survey were just as concerned as though who seem to be putting off their plans until the markets recover. Among those 54 percent told the surveyors that they left the workforce because of health problems or disability. What incomes they received from pensions and savings was largely eaten up by expenses, with 44% of those who responded telling that they spent “more than expected on health care expenses”.
Once retired, the primary concern is not outlasting your savings. It is what we focus on, mostly in the abstract while we are working. But once we leave the workforce, those concerns become very real. The EBRI found that “More than half of retirees (54%) say they are now more concerned about their financial future than they were right after they retired, a 14 percentage- point increase from a year ago (40 percent in 2007)”.
While health concerns both while working and retired have deeply impacted this confidence indicator, the real day-to-day expenses have begun to erode the average workers ability to save for retirement.
Cost of living wage increases have all but ceased, with number showing that over the last seven years, the average worker has lost one percent in the category of take home pay. Premiums for health insurance, while workers were still employed have grown by an average of 6% and those number look to increase. Couple that with wage stagnation and you can see why some workers feel as though they were moving in reverse.
The housing crisis has shaken many people to the core, even if they are confident that they are well positioned with their mortgages. Even if your debt level is manageable, the economy will make its downtrodden presence known to even you. Fuel costs will make an ever-increasing impact. Inflation will erode not only your current dollar but future ones as well. And if the economy seems bad now, wait until the job market begins to deteriorate as the credit markets continue to tremble with fear. That fear is very real. Creditors wonder, almost out loud, will they get paid back?
One bright spot: those fears seem to lessen with income. The fewer dollars you gross, the report seems to indicate, the lesser the chances are you are worried about retirement. Perhaps that is because you may never know what retirement is.