A new retirement poll from Wells Fargo
paints a dismal self-portrait of the U.S. middle class, with a significant number saying they would rather die early than not have enough money in their golden years.
According to the bank's fifth annual "Middle Class Retirement Survey," middle-class Americans have saved a median of $20,000 for retirement — an untenable number that, remarkably, is down from $25,000 in 2013.
A quarter of all middle-class Americans say they "get depressed" when thinking about their financial life in retirement. However, the rate of those who feel down about retirement increases to one in three for those in their 40s and 50s.
Among its findings:
- An estimated 34 percent of Americans are not currently contributing anything at all to a 401(k), an IRA or other retirement savings vehicle, a figure that goes up to 41 percent for those aged 50 to 59.
- Nearly a third (31 percent) of all respondents say they will not have enough money to "survive" on in retirement, and this increases to 48 percent of middle-class Americans in their 50s.
- In a new survey question, 22 percent of the middle class say they would rather "die early" than not have enough money to live comfortably in retirement.
- Almost half (46 percent) of non-retirees in their 50s think Social Security will be their primary source of income, as do 56 percent of non-retirees between the ages of 60 to 75.
The likely problem with U.S. retirees thinking they can rely on Social Security when they quit work, however, is the amount they can expect to receive. According to the Social Security Administration website
, the average monthly benefit for retired Americans is only $1,294.
Working longer or into traditional retirement years appears to be a predicted reality for a third of middle-class Americans who say they will need to work until they are "at least 80 years old" because they will not have enough retirement savings.
In a commentary about the Wells Fargo study, Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik
said, "America's middle class knows it's facing a grim retirement, but can't do anything about it."
He noted that Boston College's Center for Retirement Research has blamed several factors for the U.S. middle-class retirement predicament, including an enduring fall-off in home values that came with the 2008 financial meltdown, which especially has hurt households closer to retirement.
"There's also the systematic evisceration of defined-benefit pensions, which are shielded from market downturns, and their replacement by 401(k)s and other such defined-contribution plans, which impose all the risk of market misfortunes on the would-be retiree," Hiltzik wrote.
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