A recent National Institute on Retirement Security report tells a disheartening story: the average working-age U.S. household has only $3,000 saved for retirement[i], based on the most recent (2010) Survey of Consumer Finances sponsored by the Federal Reserve. Households aged 55-64 have $12,000.
These figures include both those that do and do not have retirement accounts. Households aged 55-64 who have retirement accounts have an average of $100,000.
Over 4 out of 10 households irrespective of age have NO retirement savings.
"People have a lot of anxiety about whether they will have adequate resources in retirement," said Nora Duncan, State Director AARP Connecticut following an AARP event in Bridgeport last Thursday to hear author, Julie Jason, speak about achieving retirement security.
Jason is the author of the AARP Retirement Survival Guide: How to Make Smart Financial Decisions in Good Times & Bad, which was recognized as a top 10 business book by Booklist (the American Library Association) and is the recipient of the prestigious EIFLE award for Excellence in Financial Literacy Education.
Jason, who was well known to the audience as a long-time financial columnist, specializes in managing retirement portfolios at Jackson, Grant Investment Advisers, Inc. of Stamford. Jason's column is syndicated by King Features.
Registration for this sell-out event reached full-capacity within five days of the first publication in the AARP monthly Bulletin, explained Duncan. After extending the original attendance maximum, over 200 people attended the event. "Anxiety and the desire for accurate and unbiased information is reflected in the overwhelming response to our event," said Duncan.
Jason's message to the audience was simple and direct: no matter what your situation, there is always room for improvement.
She set out five steps for all to consider, pointing out checklists and resources in her book as she engaged the audience.
1) Know your cash flow: When you approach retirement you'll need to know your how much money is coming into the household and how much is leaving. The best way to learn how to arrive at this cash flow is to pretend you are going to retire on Monday. Then, figure out how long your retirement will last before you have to go back to work. This exercise will help you understand how to calculate your outflow (expenses) and compare your inflow (pension, social security, and savings income). Part I of the book covers cash flow ("Understanding the Basics").
2) Look for small ways to improve your situation: If you don't have enough saved, don't be discouraged. Even an extra $100 per month invested over a long period of time in a plain vanilla S & P 500 Index Fund can make a huge difference in retirement security. Chapter 6 "Can you improve your situation?" goes through ways to save even when you think it's a lost cause.
3) Do your homework. In today's low interest rate environment, people are drawn to higher yielding -- and therefore more risky investments. To avoid misunderstandings, before buying anything at all, be sure to confirm what you are being offered. Each chapter of Part 2 of the book reviews different retirement income products, rates them, and sets out a series of questions to ask before making the decision to buy.
4) Don't be a victim. In 2013, the FINRA Foundation revealed that over 80 percent of adults ages 40 and older are exposed to financial scams. Older Americans (age 65 and older) are "particularly vulnerable." Jason shared her "don't-be-fooled-rules" from Chapter 19, "Sales Tactics, Scams, and Bad Advice: A 'Perfect Storm' of Disaster for Retirees"
5) Know your numbers: Are you ready to retire? How do you know if you've saved enough? Do you have an income gap? How will you account for taxes and inflation? How much can you safely withdraw from your investments? The Step-by-Step Retirement-Readiness Test on pages 290-292 of the book is a good place to start.
Jason's parting message was this: "Above all, know that achieving financial security is all about you," said Jason. "It's not about buying an investment. It's about understanding yourself, your needs, your limitations, your goals, and planning for the future."
"Jason provides information and immediate action steps that anyone can use to better navigate the road to retirement," said Duncan. "Every attendee received a copy of the Survival Guide, so that they could get right to work on her user-friendly suggestions."
A promoter of financial literacy education for all, Jason presents frequently in the community and nationally. For information on how to arrange speaking engagements or to receive a media copy of the book, contact: Theresa Robbins, 203-322-1198; Theresa@juliejason.com
[i] The Survey of Consumer Finances (CFS) is sponsored by the US Federal Reserve. The most recent survey data available is from 2010. The next survey based on 2013 data will be released in 2015.