Several recent studies are shedding light on the state of retirement for those who are nearing their post-working years. Today in America, everyday an average of 10,000 individuals are turning 65. And by 2030, the 50-and-over cohort is projected to expand by 20%, reaching 132 million individuals.
For generations, the retirement years have been promoted as a time of relaxation and fulfillment. And, even as many are now rethinking the definition of retirement, the desire for a secure and stable home as we grow old remains the same.
Unfortunately, recent research is revealing many Americans are not adequately prepared to meet their needs as they grow older. So, what if you find yourself in the category of someone nearing your senior years, or simply wanting to be prepared for retirement at some point in the future?
The following are a few of today’s trends that can teach us some valuable lessons when preparing for tomorrow.
First, a 2018 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows that not all employees have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan and those that do participate at low levels. Specifically, 56% of respondents had access to an employee-sponsored 401k, 403b, or similar plan.
For those who do not have that option, a meager 20% were investing in an IRA or other retirement accounts. For those aged 56-61 years old, the median retirement account was valued at just $25,000.
Even more concerning is the finding from a February 2019 survey of 1,315 adults age 50 or older by the Nationwide Retirement Institute that 44% of older Americans who are retired or plan to retire within 10 years see Social Security as their main source of retirement income. The average American worker can expect to receive annual Social Security income of just $17,064, or $1,422 a month.
We can draw two lessons here.
First, regardless of where you are in your career journey, begin contributing to a retirement account as soon as possible and be sure to take full advantage of any employer-sponsored matching programs. Secondly, to maximize Social Security benefits, delay taking payments until age 66 if at all possible. Although benefits can begin as early as age 62, monthly payments will be notably larger if you can wait until age 66. Of course, with this or any major financial decisions, be sure to consult with a trusted financial or tax advisor.
Secondly, one in three Americans over the age of 65 are spending more than the recommended one-third of their income on rent or a mortgage payment and other property expenses, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies’ 2018 Housing America’s Older Adults. “High housing costs force millions of low-income older adults to sacrifice spending on other necessities including food, undermining their health and well-being,” the study says.
And in California, this need is even greater as housing costs continue to skyrocket. Already, it’s estimated an additional 2.5 to 3.5 million housing units are needed to relieve today’s housing demand. And with a rapidly aging population, the need for quality, affordable senior housing will continue to grow. So, as a region, we need to commit to producing new housing of all types, including smaller units for seniors in walkable areas, to meet the growing demand.
Over the coming years, I believe our attention needs to shift toward better preparing for our later years and creating communities that empower seniors to live comfortable and vibrant lives. Taking these trends as a cue, let’s learn some lessons and begin moving in that direction today.
Gregory Bradbard is an advocate for breaking the cycle of poverty as President of the SoCal-based Hope Through Housing Foundation, www.HTHF.org.
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