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What’s Stopping Us From Saving For Retirement?


Across a variety of measures, Americans tend to be under-saved for retirement. Forty-three percent of workers have less than $10,000 saved for retirement, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s retirement confidence survey; even among those who have saved for retirement, the average 401(k) balance is just $74,900 — far less than most planners recommend, especially for those nearing retirement.

So what’s going on here? Many cite some kind of life event, be it having kids or losing a job, as a major impediment to saving for retirement, according to a new ING Direct survey released this week.  Here are some of the major events that Americans say got in the way of their saving for retirement.

Having Children Caring for an Aging Parent College Household Bills Buying a Home Job Loss Vacation Wedding
Age 20 – 29 23% 5% 29% 10% 14% 17% 1% 6%
Age 30 – 39 40% 7% 19% 24% 14% 18% 3% 4%
Age 40 – 49 34% 10% 16% 22% 15% 21% 4% 3%
Age 50 – 59 27% 14% 18% 19% 15% 25% 3% 3%

Some of these expenses, like household bills and job loss, may be unavoidable, but others, like a wedding or vacation, shouldn’t be prioritized over saving for retirement, says Dan Greenshields, president of ING Direct Investing.  And when it comes to kids or caregiving, “put yourself first if you can,” he says. “If you don’t, you may end up living with your kids.”

To figure out how much to save for a comfortable retirement, click on SmartMoney’s Retirement Planner here.


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Comments (3 of 3)

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    • It’s not abusive! You have to do it all. You put a little here &a little there. You may not have a Iphone & all the other stuff but thats how you get by!!!

    • It’s abusive to have children and then ‘put yourself first’. When someone chooses to become a parent, they need to put the fulfillment of that special responsibility (which they have chosen, by the way) ahead of their retirement concerns. Everyone pays for abandoned and neglected children; most of all, the child pays. They didn’t ask to be here and those who are uncomfortable with the idea of having all of that responsibility should skip having children- that kind of “me-focused” person won’t be happy as a parent anyway. Even when children are grown they face hardships my generation did not- skyrocketing college costs that leave them with onerous debt, and then fewer and fewer jobs. People need to understand how much things have changed and face the fact that if they have children, forget about having to move in with your kids- the whole family will be lucky if the younger generation is ever solvent enough to move out. The level of education required to make a living wage today costs a fortune, and it isn’t the fault of young people that things are like this.

    • Do car payments go under Household Bills? I would say those and insurance payments take up a big piece of people’s income.

About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.