My accountant husband spent last weekend bent over the computer perfecting our retirement plan.
He added up all of our expenses and eliminated costs that he didn't believe we'd have going forward, like dog food; we put our poor Spike to sleep last week because he had bone cancer.
I was assigned the job of figuring out how much money we spent on groceries last year. I added it up and got $5,811. Then my husband indexed everything for inflation and extended it as if we were both going to live to be 100. If inflation is about 3 percent, and we live that long, the grocery bill will be more than $17,000 per year. If that's true, I'm going to have to grow a garden, and maybe that won't be enough. Looking at those kinds of numbers is scary.
A study of people age 25 or older released today by the National Institute on Retirement Security reported that people have low expectations for retirement. About 17 percent said they'll be lucky just to pay their bills, while 34 percent said they think they'll have enough to live simply but comfortably. Only 11 percent expect retirement to include fun things like travel and restaurants.
More than 90 percent of people surveyed believe the retirement system is broken and needs to be fixed. And 75 percent think that the volatility of the stock market makes it impossible for average people to predict how much money they'll have in their nest eggs when they retire.
The respondents placed the responsibility for fixing these problems on Washington, D.C., and on employers, with 47 percent calling for strengthening Social Security and 75 percent saying that employers ought to be required to enroll employees in a retirement plan.
Ordinary people are struggling to do their part:
- Increasing savings: 52 percent.
- Paying down credit card debt: 52 percent.
- Paying down mortgage debt: 42 percent.
- Either delayed their retirement or plan to: 36 percent.
- Working longer hours or have taken a second job: 32 percent.
It's a surprise for many of us, I think, that retirement planning is so tough, and a shock that it doesn't look like it will get much easier.