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Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are heading into retirement in droves (about 10,000 a day, in fact). Along with the aging of this iconic cohort come lots of data about their poor preparation for their later years. Insufficient preparedness and lack of financial resources for decades without steady employment paint a gloomy picture for many retirees.

Are we facing a Baby Boomer retirement crisis? There may not be an easy answer, but read on for data that help shed some light into this large generation's economic situation. (For related reading, see: How Baby Boomers Will Change the Way Others Retire.

Baby Boomer Retirement Research

Last year, GoBankingRates published research conducted with 1,504 adults over the age of 55 (4.3% margin of error). About 30% of the respondents age 55 and over claimed to have no retirement savings. An additional 26% reported less than $50,000 saved for retirement. When considering typical benchmarks needed for a successful retirement, 54% of the older Americans in this survey lacked sufficient retirement funds.

But not all Baby Boomers lack reasonable assets. At the other end of the spectrum, 26% of those age 55 to 65 have balances greater than $200,000. Among the over-65-year olds, 31% had $200,000 or more in their retirement accounts. That's heartening for them, but this chart paints a gloomier picture of those closest to retirement age: 


Median Income

Retirement Savings Benchmark

Percentage on Track

Percentage Behind



Started a retirement fund























Research by the Insured Retirement Institute also suggests trouble for retiring Boomers. According to the study, 24% of Baby Boomers have no retirement savings – the lowest number since the study started in 2011. Only 55% of Baby Boomers have some retirement savings and, of those, 42% have less than $100,000. Thus, approximately half of retirees are, or will be, living off of their Social Security benefits.

Why They're Lacking Funds

The possible reasons why Boomers lack retirement funds are multi-dimensional. One reason is the big stock market decline in 2008-2009 that scared some older adults out of the markets, causing them to miss the subsequent rebound.

“The recession in 2008 was difficult for all of us, but if you panicked and sold everything, you most likely didn’t participate in the rally that followed. When investors don’t receive qualified, unbiased investment advice, they search for information on social networks and from friends to confirm their fears. Unfortunately, short-term reactions like this can have devastating results and is a big reason why some investors find themselves far below where they need to be,” says Dan Timotic, CFA, managing principal, T2 Asset Management, LLC, in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.

“This is the first generation to face saving for retirement on their own,” says Elyse Foster, CFP®, principal, Harbor Financial Group, Inc., Boulder, Colo. “I believe early on there was a lack of information on the importance of saving early and often. The assumption seemed to be ‘you are on your own.’”

What’s more, seven years of low interest rates have drastically undermined the funds of savers and retirees as their money is earning virtually no interest. And with wages plateauing, it’s difficult for most workers to ramp up savings.

In terms of how much Social Security is paying out to retirees, in January 2017 the average payment was approximately $1,317.

Is This a Crisis?

About 84% of retirees today receive Social Security benefits in contrast with only 69% of retirees in 1962. Clearly, the average Social Security benefit of $1,317 per month is substantially less than the average wage; roughly 50% of seniors have additional asset income today compared with 54% back in 1962. 

Whether or not we can call this a crisis depends on many factors, including what type of assets Boomers are drawing from. Boomers who own their own home and lives in an area with a lower cost of living may be able to live on quite a bit less than a rent-paying retiree or senior living in a major metropolitan area.

“Some of us may have to make some hard decisions about the lifestyle we can afford. Aside from solely relying on Social Security, looking to downsize your home, moving to a more affordable state, relying on public transportation and having a robust budget that itemizes discretionary and non-discretionary items are all a good start,” says Mark Hebner, president and founder, Index Fund Advisors, Inc., in Irvine, Calif., and author of “Index Funds: The 12-Step Recovery Program for Active Investors. “The most important thing is that retirees have the right mindset about their lifestyle in retirement. This is why it is important to start making the lifestyle adjustments before you retire so that the habits are in place.”

The Bottom Line

For those depending on Social Security benefits for their senior years, maintaining a comfortable lifestyle in retirement will likely be difficult (Retirement Strategies for Low Income Seniors can help). But whether Baby Boomers are in a retirement crisis depends on how you measure the situation, where seniors are living and how their situation compares with their predecessors. There’s really no easy answer. 

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