Do you play the lotto? I hope not. It turns out you're more likely to be killed by a vending machine than win. A scary thought for lottery lovers, perhaps, but maybe it isn't so impressive if you know to avoid those obvious money sinkholes.
Unfortunately, there are statistics out there that are just as scary -- especially when it comes to retirement.
The personal savings rate is 5.8%
In other words, the average rate of personal income savings is $0.06 for every dollar of income, well below the long-term average savings rate of nearly 8.5%. Why is that scary? Well, considering that the cost of everything from education to retirement health care is rising, a lower savings rate not only means less money in the pot, it means less purchasing power with the money you do have. Together, these factors spell vulnerability -- especially if something should go seriously wrong.
Low savings is also frightening when you consider that most of us will have to finance our own retirements. With a move away from traditional pensions, savings should be rising, not the other way around.
44% of retirees are worried about debt
The Employee Benefits Research Institute found that not only are nearly half of retirees concerned about debt, 17% have even more debt than they did five years ago. While some argue that certain kinds of debt (like mortgages) are fine, these numbers indicate that people are increasingly indebted and increasingly worried about it.
The last thing you want in retirement is to be worried about paying debts. With health care costs rising as precipitously as they are, you'll have other things to worry about.
Speaking of which...
The average couple retiring today at age 65 will need $240,000 to cover medical care
Considering that only 27% of retirees who have a retirement plan have more than $250,000 in savings, this is a scary statistic. That 27% includes people of all ages in retirement, so it's not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, but it gives you an indication of the trend. Also, take into account that only 66% of retired couples have one or more members who saved money for retirement, so 27% of that comes to 18% of all retirees.
The EBRI statistics don't take fixed assets, like a house, into account, so that is possibly unfair on one side. However, the $240,000 total also doesn't take extraordinary expenses into account, like long-term care. With 70% of people over 65 expected to need some kind of long-term care -- which isn't cheap, by the way -- I think we can pretty much call it even, unless you have significant equity in your home or other such assets.
It comes down to this: If you want to have enough money to cover both a comfortable retirement and the health care associated with it, the amount of savings you need to accumulate is significant -- and significantly more than the average person's.
That means going far beyond the average savings rate of 4% and paying off unproductive and costly debts. Neither of these activities is easy or glamorous, but they are, as the numbers demonstrate, extremely important.