Accumulating More Debt Than Money for Retirement

A majority of Americans with 401(k)-type savings accounts are accumulating debt faster than they are setting aside money for retirement, further undermining the nation’s troubled system for old-age saving, a new report has found.

Three in five workers with defined contribution accounts are “debt savers,” according to the report released Thursday, meaning their increasing mortgages, credit card balances and installment loans are outpacing the amount of money they are able to save for retirement.

In today’s news about our on-going retirement crisis, Americans with 401(k)-type retirement accounts put away a little more than 11 percent of their pay for retirement, but they’re also accruing more debt at the same time. And it’s not because Americans are any more or less responsible than they were a generation ago (Elizabeth Warren can explain this better than I can). And this is just among Americans with 401(k) accounts—59 percent of households headed by people age 65 and older currently have no retirement assets, according to Federal Reserve data.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sharing Retirement Risks

According to the Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index, the retirement system in the U.S. gets a "C" grade—"a system that has some good features, but also has major risks and/or shortcomings that should be addressed. Without these improvements its efficacy and/or long-term sustainability can be questioned." In the Harvard Business Review, Justin Fox argues that retirement risks are best when shared, and uses the Dutch as an example (an imperfect example, but one with a system that scored much higher than the U.S.), where more than 90 percent of the workforce belongs to a pension plan, and its funding ratio (ratio of a pension assets to its liabilities) is 104 percent. Reuters reports that the average funding ratio for state pension plans in the U.S. is under 70 percent.

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