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Brett Arends's ROI

Sept. 26, 2020, 12:56 p.m. EDT

Your retirement probably won’t be anything like your parents’…and that’s not good news

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By Brett Arends

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To give you a flavor of how dismal this is, if you type “$28,000” into the “Amount to Invest” box at immediateannuities.com , to see how much of an annuity this will get you, it tells you that number is below their minimum threshold for calculations.

Mmm. Good times.

As usual, everyone is wringing their hands about the financial struggles of the poor millennial generation, but the picture arguably looks even bleaker for Generation X—the largely overlooked cohort born between 1965 and 1980.

Generation X men reported median retirement savings of $80,000 and Gen X women $46,000. For people who are already aged 40 to 55, with diminishing numbers of years left in which to accumulate wealth, these are alarmingly low numbers. (By contrast, baby boomer men reported median household retirement savings over $200,000.) More than a quarter of Gen X women said they had less than $10,000 set aside for retirement.

Maybe it’s no wonder. Gen Xers have dealt with three or four “once in a lifetime” economic collapses in their adult careers, including not only Covid but also the Great Recession and the worst housing collapse since the Great Depression, the stock market crash, economic slump and terrorism crisis of the early 2000s, and a really dismal economic slump of the early 1990s.

They got little uplift from the stock market boom of the late 1990s, which came too early for them to have a lot to invest, but were around and pouring money into their 401(k) accounts during the dismal decade that followed.

Ouch.

Meanwhile, the survey confirms that women are in a worse position for retirement than men. That’s because of the infamous double whammy. On the one hand they are likely to accumulate fewer retirement savings in the first place, because they are apt to earn less and take more time out of full-time work. But on the other hand they actually need more than men because they tend to live longer.

No wonder just over half of men and women polled said they planned to retire after age 65, if at all. And 38% of men, and 27% of women, say they plan to carry on working in “retirement.”

The only thing we know for sure at this point? This won’t be your parents’ retirement—for good or ill.

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