A recent study revealed that Americans are falling behind in saving for retirement. Only 43% of U.S. workers reported having savings and investments that total over $25,000. David Bethel, partner with Financial Planners of Missouri, stopped by the set of Good Morning Heartland to tell us more on what we need to know about our retirement.
Question: Last month you talked about American middle class incomes not keeping up with expenses. Is that the problem?
Answer: It is part of the problem. When my parents were working, General Motors was the largest employer in the country. In todayâ??s dollars, those workers averaged about $50/hour in wages. Today the largest employer in the country is Wal-Mart and their workers average about $10/hour in wages.
Again, when my parents were working the typical CEO wages were about 20 times that of the average employee. Today that has increased to over 270 times that of the average employee.
Still, that is not the only reason.
Question: What are other problems we are having with saving for retirement?
Answer: One is that too much of our income is going to pay off debt. In the 1970s, Americanâ??s didnâ??t have credit cards and didnâ??t have credit card debt. So at that time the typical debt was a mortgage and it typically took less than 25% of income to make the mortgage payment.
Todayâ??s homes are bigger, more expensive and along with other debt, many Americanâ??s have 40% or more of their income going toward paying off debt. You can imagine how that trend has impacted savings and investing for retirement.
Question: There clearly are obstacles to saving enough for a successful retirement. How does one get started?
Answer: Many workers now have a 401k option available through payroll deduction where they work. And, in most cases, the employer will match a percentage of employee contributions. For example, if the employee puts a percentage of their salary in the 401k plan, the employer might match it â?? dollar for dollar â?? up to the first 3 percent.
The best way to get started and grow your retirement fund is to contribute enough to get all the match dollars. But, even though that is free money, we see people regularly who are not saving enough to get their employer match.
Question: How much will I need to save?
Answer: Once started, the best way to reach the goal is to keep increasing what you save until you reach a target. That target may be 10-15% of your income. So, if you start with that 3% to get the match, you must remember it is only a start.
And, as you save more and more toward retirement, you may want to move away from your 401k and open a Roth IRA. For most Americanâ??s the opportunity to pay no tax on the growth in your Roth IRA is the best option available.
Some higher income earners canâ??t contribute to a Roth IRA and contributions are limited, so be aware of the rules before you start contributing to a Roth IRA.
Question: So, now that we know how to get started and how to increase our savings toward retirement, how do we know if we are on track?
Answer: There are great resources to help answer that question. One simple and free resource is available on www.money.cnn.com
In the personal finance section, under calculators, there is one for "how much will I need for retirement."
You can input your present age and desired retirement age. You input your income and the percent you are saving for retirement. Finally, you input what you have already saved. The calculator will accurately estimate your social security benefit and give you good feedback about whether or not you are on track for retirement.
Financial Planners of Missouri
110 S. Franklin
Kirksville, MO. 63501