|by Rodney Brooks, USA TODAY|
Baby Boomers, forget about retirement. We'll be working for the rest of our lives.
OK, that may be an exaggeration, but not by much.
We have not saved enough money. And worse, many of us will still be up to our eyeballs in debt when we do retire. We're just one medical emergency away from bankruptcy.
According to Boomers and Retirement, a new survey by
And 74% of Boomers in the survey say they will have to rely heavily on
"We will have to work a lot longer and get by with less," says
"It's just getting a lot more expensive to be old than it used to be," she says.
"That is a point in life when most folks thought debt would be the last thing on their minds," says
Even more troubling: Nearly a third of the NFCC clients who file for bankruptcy are 50 and older. "In their golden years they are filing for bankruptcy," Cunningham says. "That is very disturbing."
American Consumer Credit Counseling, which says 25% of its clients are 55 and older, paints a similar picture. Seniors are going into retirement still carrying debt, including mortgages, credit card debt and student loan debt. They are depleting their savings and retirement accounts just to make ends meet.
"Seniors are not able to retire when they are eligible to retire because they can't afford to make ends meet," says
Other troubling signs of a crisis to come:
• Most workers in a survey by the
• 34% of older Americans used credit cards to pay for basic living expenses, such as mortgage payments, groceries and utilities, according to research conducted
• New data from EBRI show debt has actually increased for retirees 75 and older, including housing debt.
This is certainly not what Baby Boomers expected.
"You would expect more people to incur more debt early in life, rather than later," Mitchell says. "That's when you might not have a lot of money, you have student loans, a family and a mortgage payment," she says. "The idea was that you would pay off your house as you grow older. You would pay off credit cards when you hit peak earnings years, and when you moved into retirement you would do it mortgage-free and debt-free."
But that changed in a dramatic fashion, partly because of the financial meltdown and housing crisis. Many people thought they had savings in the equity in their homes. People refinanced, took out home-equity loans and spent.
"The deflating of the housing bubble meant Boomers were hitting retirement age with less in assets than they expected," Mitchell says. "That was a cold bath of water."
So, how can we get out of this mess?
We can turn more to financial planners and consumer organizations for help in retirement planning. But, at this point, there are no easy answers.
"Some people may have to take on a part-time job," says EBRI's Copeland. "They may have to alter what they thought they could do. They certainly aren't going to be able to take a lot of vacations."
"One possible answer is they just shouldn't retire," she says. "They should just wait. If you claim
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