Retirement: Ready or not? Not, apparently
A summit in D.C. considers what can be done to help workers save more for their post-career lives.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – This week in Washington, D.C. government leaders, retirement experts and financial services executives are meeting to discuss what employers, lawmakers and workers themselves can do to help Americans be better prepared for retirement.
Overall, only about 60 percent of workers over 40 who are eligible to participate in their 401(k)s do, and the number of workers covered by a defined-benefit pension has steadily declined. Meanwhile, young workers have the lowest 401(k) participation rates of all workers under 65.
Congress is considering legislation that would encourage all employers to offer automatic enrollment in 401(k)s and set the default contribution rate at 3 percent of pay, increasing one percentage point every year until 6 percent of pay is reached.
The legislation would also encourage companies to offer a 50 percent matching contribution or contribute 2 percent of pay for all employees whether they contribute or not.
Of most immediate concern is the status of Baby Boomers, who are next in line to retire.
According to research from Fidelity Investments, Baby Boomers only have enough in savings and other income sources to replace 59 percent of their pre-retirement income. Of those with 401(k) accounts, the average account balance is just $80,000, and many typically save just $2,750 a year toward retirement.
You may think that's because they all have a pension coming to them. Not so. Only 57 percent of them expect to receive a pension, according to Fidelity.
For those who do and who wish to reduce their working hours near the end of their careers, lawmakers are considering changing some rules so that workers could "phase in" their retirement, for example working part-time for their employers from 62 to 65 and collecting a portion of their pension at the same time.
A Watson Wyatt analysis found that a 62-year-old worker making $100,000 could generate between $10,000 and $20,000 more in pre-tax income under such an arrangement than if he entered full retirement at 62 and collected his full pension.
Currently, regulations often prevent most workers from collecting benefits while still working for the company providing their pension.
For workers under 50, the chances of having a pension are declining. Since 1980, the percentage of private sector workers covered by defined-benefit pensions has fallen from about 35 percent to under 20 percent.
And tens of thousands of workers have learned in the past two years that their companies are freezing their pension plans, meaning the workers will no longer accrue benefits and will need to save more to make up for lost accruals. (To see how much more, click here.)
To help educate the public about what they will need to do to adequately fund their golden years, the Department of Labor, which is sponsoring this week's retirement summit, has just published a booklet called Taking the Mystery Out of Retirement Planning.