We're all feeling the pinch financially, whether you've lost your job or are simply trying to catch up with loss of value in your home or retirement fund. Most of us are licking our financial wounds on some level, and that makes saving for retirement something that's fourth, seventh, even tenth on our list of priorities. A recent study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute estimates that those of age 36 to 62 are short a total of $4.55 trillion (that's trillion, with a "t") to pay for retirement - an average of about $48,000 per person. That's bad news, and it's even worse for those generations that save the least. So which generations are the best savers, bottom line? Here is a quick breakdown. (To learn more, see Playing Retirement Catch-Up.)
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Those first post-war babies are now inches away from retirement, with an age range of 56 to 62. You would think that with retirement so close, this generation of early boomers would have their financial ducks in a row - not so. Early boomers are short close to $30,000 each if they're married, slightly more for single males, and more than twice that for single females. This is particularly bad news for this generation, since there's little time to play catch-up. (For more, see Boomers: Twisting The Retirement Mindset.)
Those boomers aged 46 to 55 still have a way to go until retirement, but they're projected to be short on savings by roughly the same amounts of money the early boomers are. So what's the cause? Many boomers lost significant portions of retirement savings in the stock market crashes, and they have not been able to recover their losses. Single females of the boomer generation are at the highest risk of running out of money, at nearly twice their male counterpart's. Another factor in the projected shortcomings is the loss of property value: for many retirees counted on a mortgage-free lifestyle that is no longer such a sure thing. This generation is also hit hard by layoffs and has a difficult time getting rehired, amplifying retirement shortcomings.
By now, you've probably figured out that none of us have saved enough - so Generation X must be even worse off, right? On the surface the numbers do look worse: the average Generation Xer will be short $32,098 come retirement, which is slightly higher than the early boomer generation at $29,467. Does this mean that Generation X saves less? Not necessarily: this projected shortage simply reflects that costs like healthcare and medication will be higher for those that are age 36-45 now. To compensate, Generation X simply has to save more than the boomer generation. (To learn more, see The Generation Gap.)
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Generation Y and Beyond
It's too soon to tell how Generation Y - those 35 and younger - will fare, and variables like healthcare cost, healthcare-related government legislation and value of assets like real estate make these numbers difficult to predict. In any case, there's no clear winner in the savings race - in fact, we're all losing. None of us are saving enough, particularly considering the rising cost of medical expenses, and the unsure state of investment returns.
The Bottom Line
So what should you do? Save - particularly if you are a single female, a demographic that is the hardest hit by retirement shortcomings. Consider working longer: working until you're 67 will give your retirement a significant boost, because you'll have fewer years of expenses, longer to contribute to an IRA or other retirement account, and increased Social Security monies. If you're fortunate enough to have a matching 401(K) through your employer, take advantage of this.
Consult with a financial advisor to make an honest assessment of your financial needs in retirement, and make a savings plan to suit. Your golden years should be a joy, not a financial nightmare. Being more realistic about saving today, despite current financial pressures, is the way to ensure you can enjoy your retirement - no matter if you're an early or late boomer, Generation X or Y. (For more, check out 7 Boomer Jobs That Are Up For Grabs.)
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