Posted on 10 June 2010
By Mark Miller
People are genuinely afraid of outliving their money in hard times, but solutions are available.
An American man turning age 65 in 1940-just a few years after Social Security was enacted-could expect to live an average of another 11.9 years; by 2006, that number had jumped to 16.5 years. For women, the corresponding life expectancy had jumped from 13.4 years to 19.1 years. Those are just average figures, which means that half of us will live much longer. And the Social Security Administration projects that average life expectancy will keep rising in the decades ahead.
Marci asked me if longevity risk will be the next big story on retirement. My response:
It’s already they big story. We’ve seen the decline of traditional defined benefit pensions in the private sector at the same time that Americans are living longer.
Working longer – not forever – also will be part of the solution. Every year that you work means higher annual Social Security when you do file, more contributions to a retirement account and fewer years of drawing down savings.
Dealing with longevity risk also means focusing on sources of guaranteed income for life. This starts with maximizing our Social Security benefits. Almost half of Americans file at 62. For most of us, that’s a bad decision because annual benefits are much higher for those who wait until the normal retirement age, which is 66 for older boomers.
I can’t overemphasize the importance of Social Security. It’s our most important retirement benefit – about 40 percent of income on average. You may have heard that Social Security is headed toward insolvency, or that it won’t be there for future generations, but that’s not the case. Social Security is under attack from deficit hawks who just don’t like social insurance and want to cut benefits as part of the solution to our federal debt problems.
In fact, Social Security has an enormous surplus. The program does face some long-range solvency problems, but solutions exist to these problems. We need to protect and enhance Social Security, not slash the program.
I also see an important role for do-it-yourself pension products, such as income annuities.
Here’s what Marci had to say about The Hard Times Guide:
For those of us trying to plan financially for the life stage formerly known as retirement, Mark Miller’s new book, The Hard Times Guide to Retirement Security, is required reading. My eyes tend to glaze over when I read about concepts like 401(k)s or annuities, but Miller has a gift for sifting through the available information and distilling it into clear, easy-to-understand advice. Here are some of his insights during a recent conversation.