Deferring Retirement? Hold That Thought
By: Brian O'Connell

NEW YORK (BankingMyWay) — A common post-recession theme in the world of personal finance has been the trend of young people putting off retirement planning, but a new study from the Employee Benefit and Research Institute (EBRI) finds that the move may not pay off as much as those workers think.

In the report, EBRI concludes that if Americans think they can skip retirement at age 65 and delay it into their 70s or 80s, they are in for a financial shock. Many of those Americans would still not have the necessary assets and income to cover even their most basic retirement expenses. In a separate study, EBRI says that tough times have also derailed most Americans' retirement saving plans, and more are falling behind every year. Two points stand out from that study:

  • The percentage of workers "not at all confident" about having enough money for a comfortable retirement grew from 22% in 2010 to 27%, the highest level measured in the 21 years of the survey. At the same time, the percentage of workers who were "very confident" shrank to the low of 13% that was first measured in 2009.
  • A sizable percentage of workers report they have virtually no savings or investments: 29% say they have less than $1,000 saved up. In total, more than half of workers (56%) report that the total value of their household’s savings and investments, excluding the value of their primary home and any defined benefit plans, is less than $25,000.

Evidently, workers who haven’t saved nearly enough for retirement figure they can keep working well into their 70s and 80s, thus securing income for their golden years. But that first EBRI study begs to differ.

If a worker staves off retirement until his or her 80s, EBRI says, there will still be a risk of an income shortfall. Conversely, study participants who invest in a 401k or other defined contribution retirement plan have a 10% better chance of meeting their retirement financial needs.

"Our research finds that many people may have to delay retirement far beyond age 65 to increase the probability that they have enough money to cover their retirement expenses at a comfortable level," notes Jack VanDerhei, EBRI's research director and co-author of the “Deferring Retirement” report. "What really makes a positive difference, we found, is if people who continue to work after 65 also continue to contribute to a defined contribution retirement plan."

Ultimately, EBRI estimates that lower-income Americans will have about a “50-50” shot of making their retirement money last, even if they hold off on retiring for a decade or two. But the way this economy is going, you have to wonder how long that will last.

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