For most Americans, receiving a pension in old age is about as likely as spotting a unicorn heading out for a morning jog. And Social Security won’t see you through your golden years comfortably, so you’d better have a retirement savings account to live on if you don’t want to work until the day you die.
Unfortunately, most people aren’t heading in that direction, a new survey by the financial services site GOBankingRates finds. The survey of 4500 adults from different generations finds that one third of respondents had no retirement savings at all—including 28 percent of Americans 55 years or older, who presumably want to retire sooner rather than later.
Image Credit: GOBankingRates
More than half of those surveyed had less than $10,000 saved for retirement. This isn’t so much a sign that all of America has become fiscally irresponsible as it is that the impact of the Great Recession isn’t over. It’s hard to put money away to use decades from now when you’re living paycheck to paycheck, and crushing student debt makes it really hard to save for retirement—one 2015 report found that people starting out with $30,000 in student debt will end up with $325,000 less in retirement savings over time than someone who came out of college debt-free.
Moreover, the survey found that women were 27 percent more likely to have nothing in their retirement savings accounts compared to men. The gender gap in retirement savings likely stems from several issues. According to the Department of Labor, "Women are more likely to work in part-time jobs that don't qualify for a retirement plan." If they take time off from work (especially because of a lack of paid parental leave), they work fewer total years. And when they are working, women on average make less than men. The average full-time female worker in the United States makes just 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. Working fewer years and making less money overall means being able to set aside less for retirement—even though women tend to live longer than men (thus requiring more funds).
Image Credit: JP Morgan
Even if you haven’t begun saving for retirement yet, it’s better to start now than to put it off for a few more years. Thanks to compound interest, retirement savings accounts grow most if you put a little money in them over a long period of time, rather than a lot of money all at once. The graph above, from JP Morgan, sums it up nicely.
You may think that you don’t have enough extra cash to sock away funds for decades, but you shouldn’t wait for that raise to enroll in your employer’s 401(k) or open an IRA. Put away as much as you can now, even if that seems like a paltry amount, because it’s likely that Social Security will not be the same when today's young workers retire—the agency only has enough money right now to pay out benefits until 2041, after which it’s likely that benefits will be reduced.