I spent most of my career studying the economic pressures on families – people who worked hard, played by the rules, but still found themselves hanging on by their fingernails to a place in the middle class.
A generation ago, middle class families could put away enough money during their working years to make it through their later years with dignity. But since that time, the retirement landscape has shifted dramatically against our families.
A third of working families on the verge of retirement have no savings of any kind. Another third have total savings less than their annual income. Just as people need to rely more than ever on pensions, employers have replaced guaranteed retirement income with 401(k) plans that leave retirees at the mercy of the market. And 44 million workers don’t even have access to that sort of plan.
Add all of this up, and we’re left with a retirement crisis – a crisis that is as real and as frightening as any policy problem facing the United States today.
Today, there is a $6.6 trillion gap between what Americans under 65 are currently saving and what they will need to maintain their current standard of living when they hit retirement.
Two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for the majority of their income in retirement, and for 14 million seniors – 14 million – this is the safety net that keeps them out of poverty. God bless Social Security.
And yet, instead of taking on the retirement crisis, instead of strengthening Social Security, some in Washington are actually fighting to cut benefits.
Let’s look at the facts: Social Security will be safe for the next 20 years and even after that will continue to pay most benefits. With some modest adjustments, we can keep the system solvent for many more years – and could even increase benefits.
The absolute last thing we should do in 2013 – at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors to keep their heads above water — is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch.
If we want a real middle class that continues to serve as the backbone of our country, then we must take the Retirement Crisis seriously. Sign our national pledge to protect Social Security for America’s seniors.
The conversation about retirement and Social Security benefits is not just a conversation about math. At its core, this is a conversation about our values.
I believe we honor our promises, we make good on a system that millions of people paid into faithfully throughout their working years, and we support the right of every person to retire with dignity.