Some of us are earning more and saving more for retirement than we were five years ago, but is it too little, too late?
More than a quarter (28 percent) of working Americans surveyed by Bankrate.com said they are saving more for retirement in 2018 than they did last year, while 13 percent reported saving less. The percentage of respondents who said they are boosting their savings has climbed each year for the last four years, according to the website.
Other studies suggest they need to. A new survey of employers by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies finds just 16 percent are very confident their employees will be financially secure in retirement, and just 18 percent of workers are very confident they will fully retire and live comfortably.
“That’s a very discouraging result,” said Catherine Collinson, president and CEO of Transamerica Institute. She said the numbers could improve substantially if more employers offered phased retirement, help with retirement income planning and better overall retirement plan design.
A few takeaways from both surveys:
• Mind your own rate. While it’s instructive to learn what others are doing — and important from a policy standpoint to advocate for better plans — the retirement buck really does stop with you. Most experts now recommend saving 15 percent of pay if you earn at or above median U.S. income, now around $59,000. Lower-income workers might get by saving less because a higher portion of their incomes presumably will be covered by Social Security. Very high-income workers will need to save even more.
• Be choosy in the job market. If you manage to score multiple job offers as the jobless rate continues to shrink, compare retirement and health benefits closely. A slightly higher salary won’t make up for a bad plan.
• Don’t wait for a better system. The Center for Retirement Research offered up several policy suggestions earlier this year for improving the U.S. retirement system, but you don’t have to wait around for the government to act. On your own, you can tackle most of CRR’s wish list: When you leave a job, figure out the 401(k) rollover rules and determine if it’s best to stay in the plan or go. Understand fees and adviser conflicts of interest. Don’t take money out of a 401(k) early. Find the best strategy for claiming Social Security.
It would certainly be easier if policymakers encouraged all those items, but if your retirement clock is running down, don’t sit around and wait.
Janet Kidd Stewart writes the Journey for Tribune Content Agency.