Charles Ellis, Alicia Munnell and Andrew Eschtruch of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College think it’s possible:
Just 30 years ago, most American workers were able to stop working in their early sixties and enjoy a long and comfortable retirement. This “golden age” of retirement security reflected the culmination of efforts that started more than a century ago when employers first set up pensions. Gradually, over decades, we built an effective system with Social Security and Medicare as the universal foundation and traditional pensions—where the employer was responsible for all the saving and investment decisions—providing a solid supplement for about half the workforce. The increasing provision of retirement support allowed people to retire earlier and earlier.
This brief golden age is now over. Because of economic and demographic developments, our retirement income systems are contracting just as our need for retirement income is growing. On the income side, Social Security is replacing less of our preretirement income; traditional defined benefit pension plans have been displaced by 401(k)s with modest balances; and employers are dropping retiree health benefits. On the needs side, longer lifespans, rising health care costs, and low interest rates all require a much bigger nest egg to maintain our standard of living. The result of all these changes is that millions of us will not have enough money for the comfortable retirement that our parents and grandparents enjoyed.
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