RISMEDIA, February 23, 2010—There we were, a whole generation with the brass ring in sight. Flush with equity in stocks and real estate, portfolios of blue chips, bolstered by ERISA protected pensions, insured by the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation and maybe even a little Social Security. We were going to rock retirement like only boomers can do.
But, the financial intermediaries beat us to it. Now they’re skiing in Gstaad and eating Caspian Beluga roe on toast points while we clip coupons and postpone our golden years indefinitely.
Many who had pension funds will discover that the money owed to retirees exceeds what is available to pay them. The PBGC, created to make sure retirees would get their money, reports that as of September 30, 2009, they had only $68.7 billion in assets to cover an estimated $89.8 billion in liabilities. The PBGC reports that “potential exposure to future pension losses from financially weak companies” is approximately $168 billion.
More and more households are starting to look like the Walton’s with three or four generations living under one roof. Aging parents and underemployed adult children with children of their own are squeezing boomer households.
Now, we need to bridge the gap between expectations of an idyllic retirement and the new reality that we may live a very long time and have to work for most of it, if we can.
A Much Longer Life to Plan For
It’s a whole new ball game. In 1900, average life expectancy was 47 years. There wasn’t any retirement to plan for. Staying ahead of the grim reaper was a dead sprint and a very short race. Those who lived longer kept working until they were unable to. Few people lived long enough to develop dementia.
Today, according to a United Nations Report, Japan leads all countries with an average life expectancy of 82.6. Men live an average of 79 years and women outlive them by 7.1 years to a ripe old age of 86.1.
The U.S. ranks 38th with an average life expectancy of 78.2. Men live to an average of 75.6 years, and ladies, you’ll get 5.2 more years and live to be 80.8.
Our immediate neighbors to the north, where we generally assume that things there are pretty much like they are here, are on to something. Canada ranked 11th with an average of 80.7, and note the unusually narrow gap between men and women, 78.3 to 82.9.
Canadian men live longer because there is more equitable access to health care, and because they