Are You Doomed to Be a Never-Retiree?


Never retireDo you really want to work until the day you die? Like it or not, an alarming number of workers think they'll have to -- and that number is rising.

A recently released study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute reveals a major trend toward working longer before retirement. According to its latest figures, more than a quarter of all workers who are at least 50 years old expect to retire at age 70 or later, with 5% who expect that they'll have to work until they're 80. Those figures are all up significantly from 2006.

But even worse, one in six Americans think that they'll never be able to retire.

Although that figure is down from the depths of the recession, it's still a sobering reflection of just how ill-prepared most workers are for figuring out their finances during their golden years.

It's Not a Choice -- It's Reality

For most workers, the decision to keep working isn't much of a decision. It just reflects financial reality.

Over the past 30 years, many retiree-wannabes have seen the legs cut out from under their plans to retire. Social Security pays out only enough to support a minimum-wage lifestyle. Many companies have replaced the monthly pensions they used to pay with 401(k) plans that put the responsibility for saving for retirement squarely onto their workers' shoulders -- often at times when they were least able to carry the extra burden.

Even those who set aside money in their retirement accounts month after month have seen the fruits of their labors shrivel. The markets haven't been kind for the last 10 years. After having high expectations from the strong bull markets of the 1980s and 1990s, many investments have produced hardly any return at all in the past decade.

With all the uncertainty both in the U.S. and internationally in places like Europe, you can't count on those retirement dreams magically coming back.

Set the Date and Save for It

As discouraging as this study is, there's an even scarier elephant in the room: Many workers won't be able to work as long as they want. So don't let the study's results stop you from taking every step you can to protect your own financial security. You may well need every penny down the road.

For more on managing your money for (and during) your golden years, see:

Motley Fool contributor Dan Caplinger is still naive enough to think he'll retire someday. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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It sounds like you knew better than your advisor!....good for you. Sounds like you leap-frogged the quicksand that bogged down so many retirement plans.

Were you smart or lucky???.... Maybe tyou were lucky enough to be born smart!

December 29 2011 at 10:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

In Oct. 2008 I was fearful of an Obama win and suggested to my financial advisor that I should take my sizeable IRA account and put it into a money market account until the dust of the election settled, He recommended I "stay the course" --the market was at 14,000 at the time. After the election, and the market dropped to 12,000, then 11,500. I fired my advisor and put my money into an annuity that guaranteed me 5% on the initial investment ----people thought I was nuts. As they watched the market drop to 6500 I became a genious! As the market rebounded so did the value of my initial investment and,likewise, the corresponding 5% return which, incidentally, would never be based on any amount lower than the intial investment.... regardless of what happens to the market.

Now, I also have a failry sizeable 401k with my current employer which has ridden the wave of the market over the past 15 years but it's now healthy again, as is my wife's 401k of similar value. But the real win was protecting that IRA from the loss that most people suffered by staying in the market through the 2008-2010 roller-coaster ride. Instead of seeing that large account dwindle to 40% of its value, I saw only a 10-15% drop.

So as I now reach retirement at age 65, I have a resurgent 401k that has enjoyed the rise of the past year or so plus the annuity which provides a guaranteed income based on an initial investment that never took the hit that so many others suffered........was i lucky or smart???? Who cares...I will have a comfortable retirement with money left for my kids and grandkids......!

December 29 2011 at 9:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have worked all of my adult life I am now 60 yrs old and plan on a comfortable retirement. I worked I saved I invested I lived within my means. Paid for my house Never took a hand out from the government. Invested in market over 30 years
overall made money paid for house with dividends. Never made more than $40,000 year. Sick of Americans whining
everyone is responsible for themselves

December 29 2011 at 7:21 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

There ae some slick wall street types in NY that are enjoying my retirement savings

December 28 2011 at 10:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The entire country is doomed.

December 28 2011 at 8:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yes, I plan to work at least part time till the day I die and just hope I'm not in debt and can leave something to my kids.

December 28 2011 at 4:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Again another ill researched article by a brainless writer. The issue is that we have no return on savings for the last 10 years. It's the difference between someone working for 30 years, putting away 10k per year and having several million to retire on or only 300k. If the market doesn't improve, a generation of younger workers will have grown up with the traditional well diversified savings account being a false hope and they will stick their money under their mattresses, which WILL doom the market. That's the real story. Were the last recession to not have occured, our savings would be double to triple what they are today. Instead of writing about something like that which requires real research, this writer is simply regurgitating the same polls that everyone else has been without any critical analysis. This story should have been written in crayon.

December 28 2011 at 3:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Danny here, I already know due to a recurring illness I will most likely die many years before I am able to retire. I have about a 25% chance that i will even make it to 65. And I'm 50 right now.

December 28 2011 at 2:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I retired at 5, but nothing is wrong with keeping working either. I have friends that are still working and they have no plans to retire. Others, like me, have retried and we do volunteer work where we enjoy doing what we like to do. The best thing is to do what you want to do. Don't let some government or society tell you what to do. Freedom includes the ability to make up your own mind. If you don't retire, for whatever reason, just enjoy the years you have left doing what what you like.

December 28 2011 at 12:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Jim Boss

I am 40 I started saving for retirement in the late 90s when I got out of the military ... I have (or had) a great plan to retire when I wanted to through 401k and IRA savings alone ... I was disciplined and on track through the great recession. Over the last year I have fallen way off track because the Obama administration is changing the rule-book willy-nilly, and no one is sure if congress will ever get anything done. We need some stability in our laws and policies so individuals and businesses can plan ... we don't need legislation to fix the economy, once legislation puts us on a sustainable financial track businesses will fix the economy.
Hey congress and President Obama, give me a little stability so I can plan and take care of myself and my family ... I'm not asking for a handout, and if I have to work my whole life I will ... but right now there is too much instability to plan more than a year out so everyone with any money (including businesses) is waiting on the sidelines for things to sort themselves out. If you've been out shopping lately you'll see it's not a lack of consumer spending keeping the economy down. It's a lack of stability keeping businesses and individuals from investing appropriately for their own future and the future or our country. WE NEED AN ANSWER -- are you going to: 1)Continue deficit spending and pay for it by printing money and killing the dollar 2)Generate more revenue by taxing the wealthy thereby driving business owners to other countries and destroying our future or 3)Use the god-given power of persuasion, that got you elected without a lick of relevant experience, to convince people it is time we, as a country, live within our means ... it's time for your "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" moment ...there are many people who need help, but there are many more collecting entitlements that are just plain lazy ... it's time someone called them on it. JUST DO IT.

December 28 2011 at 11:35 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply