How Two-Thirds of Americans Are Risking Their Retirement

Income-tax records show that most workers are not taking advantage of a key savings method. Learn how you can right this retirement wrong.

How Two-Thirds of Americans Are Risking Their Retirement Photo by Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

Another week, another bleak statistic about Americans’ retirement prospects.

The latest: Only 32 percent of us are saving even a single penny in a workplace retirement account like a 401(k), Bloomberg News reports this week, citing data from U.S. Census Bureau researchers Michael Gideon and Joshua Mitchell.

Their data provide new insight because the information is culled from federal tax records. Bloomberg continues:

Gideon and Mitchell estimate 79 percent of Americans work at places that sponsor a 401(k)-style plan. … The bad news is that just 41 percent of workers at those employers are making contributions to such a plan — more than 20 points lower than previous estimates.

Breaking down the numbers further, Gideon and Mitchell found that just 32 percent of all American workers are saving in a workplace retirement account.

Employer matches

This statistic is especially bad news considering that workers’ contributions to an employer-sponsored retirement account like a 401(k) are often matched to an extent by the employer.

Essentially, employer matches are “free money.” So it’s critical that workers with access to such free money save enough to claim it.

From “7 Tips for Stress-Free Retirement Plan Investing“:

For example, if your employer matches your contributions dollar for dollar up to 6 percent of your $4,000 monthly salary, you’ll get $240 free in your account for the first $240 you save. If you don’t take advantage of your employer’s match, you’re throwing away free money.

Need more details? Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson breaks this down further in “Ask Stacy: How Much Should I Contribute to My 401(k)?

Maximum contributions

Saving enough money to claim your employer’s full match is the minimum you should do when contributing to a workplace retirement account.

For tax years 2016 and 2017, the Internal Revenue Service allows you to contribute up to $18,000 per year to a 401(k) — and other defined contribution plans such as the Thrift Savings Plan, 403(b) plans and most 457 plans.

If you’re 50 or older, the IRS allows you to “catch up” by contributing an extra $6,000 per year.

Not among the 79 percent of Americans whose employers offer a workplace retirement account? Among other ways to ensure enough money for retirement, you can save money in an individual retirement account, or IRA.

For 2016 and 2017, the IRS allows you to contribute up to $5,500 per year to an IRA. If you’re 50 or older, you can contribute an extra $1,000 per year above that limit.

For more steps you can take, check out “Ready to Rescue Your Retirement in 2017? Here’s How.”

Are you surprised to hear that only 32 percent of Americans contribute to an employer-sponsored retirement account? Share your thoughts below or on Facebook.

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