Folks like John Greene seem common in stories that question retirement savings policies and 401(k) plans, like one that ran in this weekend’s paper. Greene worked 30 years in a Wisconsin meat processing plant, and now at 77 his retirement savings have dropped to fraction of the $60,000 balance he had at retirement.
And what’s shocking is how many people are willing to jump into the comments section to blast Greene for his own predicament.
Yes, he probably could have saved more, as $60,000 was not nearly enough. Yes, he probably could have invested his savings more effectively, by, say, rolling his investments into cash just before the Great Recession.
Yet the data shows that there are millions of people like Greene. The typical 401(k) balance for people 55 to 64 years old was $54,000 in 2010, according to a recent study produced by Boston College. Fewer than half of the nation’s private-sector workers are in 401(k) plans.
Whether folks should have saved more or invested more shrewdly doesn't alter the fact that millions have not. Greene is no better than just getting by and he behaved exactly the same way many millions of other Americans have.
It seems roughly akin to having a dangerous curve on the highway where a dozen drive off to their deaths each year. Would we routinely blame the dead for their own driving carelessness?
Or put up a guardrail?