The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 23, 2013

Our View: Retirement about to become a crisis


The Free Press

— While the government is focused on the expected bump in health costs with aging baby boomers, another crisis is looming on the horizon — retirement costs.

In a report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 57 percent of U.S. workers say they have less than $25,000 in savings and investments excluding their homes. This is up from 49 percent in 2008. This same report discovered that only 66 percent of workers are even saving for retirement.

Couple this with the fact that Americans are living longer, and more pressure is put on to secure adequate retirement savings. A Society of Actuaries report says this life extension will add as much as $97 billion to corporate pension liabilities in coming years. So rather than kick in more money to cover the liabilities, this will likely spur more companies to shrug off traditional pensions, thus causing further anxiety for workers.

There is strong reason to raise this fear for the future if for no other reason than to get people to examine their lifestyles now in preparing for the future. And one of those examinations should be on easy credit.

A study out of Ohio State University suggests that young adults are racking up credit card debt faster than other age groups and they are slower at paying it off. The results suggest a substantial number of these people will die with their debt still being owed.

While it is true studies have found the young and the unemployed are relying more on credit cards to make ends meet, we need to more closely examine what those “ends” are for some.

Eight-five percent of the households have cable TV and the penetration continues to grow despite the recession. A report from the NPD Group last year found that even though wages have flattened, cable prices continued to increase by six percent every year. It predicted the average bill will be $123 a month in 2015 and $200 by 2020.

Nearly half of Americans have smartphones, which carry expensive data plans. And while the entire U.S. economy grew 1.4 percent from 2005-2009, the video game industry grew by 10.6 percent in the same period.

This lifestyle is unsustainable and yet our economy is based on consumerism. We need a national dialogue that moves us from satisfying the now to better planning for the future; to accepting smaller sacrifices over the long run now to avoid an unfathomable bailout in the future.