You might have heard about the so-called "Retirement Crisis" -- the 'perfect storm' of circumstances that are hitting the older population right now, and making it harder than ever for them to retire comfortably. The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) found that the Great Recession's hit on 401(k)'s varied by age and job tenure, but for people in the 56-65 age range with a long tenure with an employer, losses on average were greater than 25%. But that's not the only factor pummeling the Boomers. Below are a few top reasons the experts say are making this generation's retirement the toughest on record.
1. Short-term interest rates are close to zero. Those low rates mean traditional low-risk investments such as certificates of deposit aren't the good buys they used to be. Hildy Richelson, president of the Scarsdale Investment Group in Blue Bell, PA., said the low rates are a big factor clobbering the current wave of retirees.
2. Financial malpractice and unscrupulous salespeople. Lisa Hay, a financial advisor based in Stow, OH., said that she's seen the lack of consumer awareness regarding the financial industry put the public at the mercy of financial salespeople. "John Q. Public doesn't know that the nice guy from church sold him an inappropriate, overpriced, commission-based product that was not in John Q public's best interest," Hay said. "The effect of high fund expenses, high turnover, load fees or commissions, all of which are frequently 'hidden' costs, can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars of costs which decrease the retirement portfolio's earnings!"
3. Longevity. Retirement is getting longer on average every day, as healthy people see their life expectancies extend, and post-income earning years make up a larger part their lives. Financial Advisor Pamela Plick, a CFP based in Indian Wells, Calif., called the increase in longevity the "biggest single biggest factor" causing retirement to be harder today than it was 10 or 20 years ago. "The average life expectancy for a 65 year old today is 84.7 and they have a 40% chance of living to age 90," Plick pointed out. "In addition, on average women live approximately seven years longer than men. A retiree can potentially spend 20 to 30 years in retirement, which causes the concern of outliving their money."
4. Decline of the pension plan. The 401(k) and individual retirement account were not always mainstays of the retirement environment. Before the early 1980s, most of the workforce relied on tax-thrift savings accounts and pensions. Today's model requires much more active participation from participants. "Without pensions, most people must make financial decisions on their own, or try to find a financial professional who they can trust," Hay noted.
5. Kids moving home. Some people are calling this crop of retirees "the sandwich generation" -- that's because not only is the economic climate inhospitable to their retirement, but broader economic woes have their kids unable to find jobs as well, sending adult children home to drain their parents' retirement resources. Richelson pointed to the many young people who cannot get jobs, or jobs that pay a living wage, causing many parents to have to consider supporting their offspring for much longer than otherwise planned.
But maybe retiring in this day and age isn't all bad. Pamela Plick had this to say about positive changes to the retirement landscape: "One factor that makes retiring today better or easier than in the past is that retirement looks different for everyone, especially the Boomers," she said. "Retirement does not mean stopping working, period. A lot of Boomers take retirement as an opportunity to change careers or start a business that they are passionate about."