Retirement is something that many of us daydream about in a positive fashion. We envision, perhaps, days full of golf, or reading, or gardening, or bridge. We visualize Social Security checks arriving, along with, perhaps, allocations from pensions or other retirement accounts. But this scenario may be in danger. As a Newsday article recently opined, "The nation is quietly drifting toward a time when retirees will have to fend for themselves."
The article made the following salient points:
- Retirements have traditionally relied on Social Security, pensions, and savings, and all three are now wobbly. Most Americans simply don't save enough (here are some shocking statistics), pension plans are increasingly of the 401(k) kind, with the onus largely on the not-always-pragmatic employee, and Social Security may be changing drastically. (Though here's a ray of hope for corporate pensions: SBC Communications
(NYSE:SBC)may be pioneering a new trend that's more employee-friendly.)
- Many companies that do still support traditional pensions have found themselves on fiscal shaky ground -- examples include General Motors
(NYSE:GM)and Ford (NYSE:F). (Read Chris Mallon's "The Perils of Pensions.") Making matters worse, Newsday says, "The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is itself in need of a bailout. It paid out $3 billion in benefits last year, but tumbled from a surplus in 2001 to a $23 billion deficit in 2004." Yikes.
- Social Security is critical to many. "Social Security checks -- which average $955 a month -- are the only income for one-quarter of the nation's 48 million elderly." (Let Robert Brokamp enlighten you about "Seven Social Security Myths.")
The article concludes ominously: "Without a significant change in saving habits and a secure Social Security benefit, most workers may find that the American dream of a comfortable retirement is simply out of reach."
That's sad, but true. But things don't have to be so bleak for you. You can take matters into your own hands and prepare sensibly for retirement -- it's most likely not too late at all. You can learn a lot from Robert Brokamp's excellent articles on the topic, and also by checking out his new Rule Your Retirement newsletter -- we're even offering a free sample. And as if that isn't enough, right now we've got a special promotion going on -- try the newsletter for free and we'll toss in a free copy of David and Tom Gardner's book on retirement, Money After 40. That's a lot of good stuff for free, in my humble opinion.
What do you think of the future of retirement in America? Share your thoughts on our Retirement Investing discussion board.
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.