Few Young Workers Contribute To Retirement Plans

Americans love instant gratification. That's why so many are in credit card debt (more on that in a future post) and that's why so many save so little (see our previous article on Americans' Negative Savings Rate).

This preference for devoting resources to the present rather than the future apparently starts young.

According to a study released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in December 2007, 36.8 percent of workers who are 17 years old now will have absolutely no money in a 401(k) or similar retirement plan when the time comes for them to retire.

According to a CNN article on the study, "Only 36 percent of workers in 2004 participated in 401(k)s and similar accounts when offered."

With Social Security up in the air and pensions becoming increasingly rare, workers are basically left to plan their retirement on their own by contributing to a 401(k), IRA or both. There are even self-directed IRAs and self-directed 401(k)s for those who want to really take the reins of planning for their retirement.

Unfortunately, it seems that many workers are paralyzed by the idea of planning for their retirement. So, rather than face the stress of the decision-making process, so they do nothing about it. And hope for the best, I guess.

"GAO found that automatically enrolling workers in 401(k)s and similar plans would cut the number of those without money in those plans to 17.7 percent," according to CNN. "Automatic enrollment would halve the number of low income workers with zero retirement dollars from 63 percent to 30 percent."

The GAO is not the only one reporting on the trend. The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) released a report last November that found that participation in employment-based retirement plans decreased from 40.9 percent of all workers in 2005 to 39.7 percent of all workers in 2006.

"The EBRI report found certain characteristics were associated with a lower level of participation in a retirement plan, such as being non-white, younger, female, never married, having a lower educational attainment, lower earnings, poorer health status, no health insurance through an employer, not working full time, not working full year, and working in service occupations or in farming, fisheries and forestry occupations," according to The Wenatchee World.

The bottom line, though, is that everyone needs to plan ahead and save for retirement. Not only do they need to save, they need to invest in such a way as to outpace inflation. Otherwise, they won't have any money when they want to retire. Hoping to win the lottery at age 64, for example, is just bad "strategery."

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March 20, 2014 at 2:11 PM Nick said...

We are in a very interesting situation. The millennial generation acts differently than past generations. I read an interesting article about retirement stats and if the idea of retirement is fading. I'd be interested to see what you think of this article. The article is at http://www.accuplan.net/selfdirectedirablog/self-directed-ira/is-the-trend-for-retirement-fading/

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