The concept of ‘retirement’, of enjoying decades of work-free leisure in your golden years, is a relatively new construct. It’s only been around for a few generations.
In fact, the current version of the relaxed, golfing/RV-touring/country club retirement lifestyle only came into being in the post-WW2 boom era — as Social Security, corporate & government pensions, cheap and plentiful energy, and extended lifespans made it possible for the masses.
But increasingly, it looks like the dream of retiring is fast falling out of reach for many of today’s Baby Boomers. Most will outlive their savings (if they have any at all).
And the retirement prospects look even worse for Generations X, the Millennials, and Gen Z.
A Bad Squeeze
While the US enjoyed a wave of unprecedented prosperity throughout the 20th century, the data clearly shows that halcyon era is ending.
Real wages (i.e., nominal $ earned divided by the inflation rate) for the average American worker have hardly budged since the mid-1960s:
Yet the cost of living has changed dramatically over the same time period. Note how the rate of increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) started accelerating in the late ’60s and never looked back:
Squeezed between stagnant wages and a rising living costs, perhaps it should be little surprise that so many Americans are having difficulty finding anything left over to save for retirement.
We’ve written about this extensively in our past reports, such as Let’s Stop Fooling Ourselves: Americans Can’t Afford The Future and The Great Retirement Con. But as a way of driving the point home, here are some quick sobering stats from the National Institute On Retirement Security:
- The median retirement account balance among all working US adults is $0. This is true even for the cohort closest to retirement age, those 55-64 years old.
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