In the fantasy world of politics and financial planners, right now, millions of baby boomers are slapping their palms to their foreheads and saying, "Gosh darn-it! I knew I forgot to do something: Save for retirement!"
Alas, it should only be that simple.
No, we did not "forget" to save. You can't save what you don't have. And while many younger workers may be jumping joyously over President Obama's soon-to-be proposed retirement plan changes, we who "forgot to save" will again be left out in the cold.
Obama's plan consists of a number of legislative proposals, which he'll formally outline in the 2017 budget he submits to Congress next month. They include an offer of tax credits to small businesses that automatically enroll their employees in a 401(k) type plan; a mandate that companies with existing retirement plans offer them to part-time workers; and a plan to make it easier for companies to pool their retirement expenses and offer multiple employer plans.
These are all lovely ideas and they will undoubtedly make a difference in your retirement life if you are currently in your 20s, 30s, and maybe even in your 40s. But for those in their 50s, 60s or older, well you got nuthin' except maybe that same old finger wagged at you that says you should have saved more.
And maybe you should have. But since you didn't, it would be nice if the nation could give a few seconds of thought to exactly what's going to happen to the millions of older workers (or out-of-workers) who have less than $1,000 saved.
In 2015, 80 percent of Americans were in debt, according to the Pew Charitable Trust. According to the Fed, 55 percent of Americans who earn less than $40,000 a year plan to keep working as long as possible because they know they can never afford to retire -- and 62 percent of Americans earn less than $40,000 a year.
As a Medium.com writer so aptly put it: "So the reason most Americans have no retirement isn’t because they’re silly and forget to save; it’s because they’re broke as shit and have debt to pay." Kind of says it all.
Plus retirement often has the benefit of surprise on its side. Research from Voya Financial says that for 60 percent of retirees, the timing of retirement was somewhat or completely unexpected. Financial guru Jean Chatzky, writing for AARP, noted an Employee Benefit Research Institute report that says half -- half!! -- of workers retire earlier than they expected because of health issues, the need to care for a family member or the elimination of their jobs.
So along come the long-awaited retirement planning reforms and who will benefit from them the least (if at all)? That would be the workers/out-of-workers on the higher end of the age scale. And of those hurting, who hurts the most? Well, that also would be the workers/out-of-workers on the higher end of the age scale. They have less time to recover what they lost in the recession, which for many, included their jobs. They drained their savings to keep their homes. They pieced together a string of part-time jobs and called it earning a living. Older workers stay out of work longer than anyone else and age discrimination remains the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about.
So let's recap: The President has a terrific little idea to help younger workers build up their savings over a few decades so that when they reach retirement age, they won't be left rummaging through trash cans looking for recyclables. But for older workers? Why doesn't the President's proposal offer businesses tax incentives to hire older workers? Where are the government programs to retrain older workers whose skills sets are out-of-date? And how about one -- just one -- high-profile case filed by the EEOC that goes after a major company for age discrimination in hiring?
Or aiming low, how about just please stop telling us that we forgot to save?