RIP for Retirement?

From the Editor

RIP for Retirement?

More retirees today get income from 401(k)s than they ever did from traditional pensions.

"The Death of Retirement." That's the title we considered -- and rejected -- for our cover story this month. Provocative, sure, but a turnoff no matter how old you are. As one of our twentysomething staff members put it, "For me, retirement is just a dream, so it's hard to be interested in its death. But 'The Changing Face of Retirement' opens the door for positive potential."

Here at Kiplinger's we're swamped with studies showing the sorry state of retirement readiness. But I can't see baby-boomers -- the biggest, richest, loudest U.S. generation ever -- living in cardboard boxes. Retirement may look different than it did for past generations -- and for those yet to come -- but there's plenty of "positive potential."

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For starters, as bad as things might look now, the good old days weren't so great. When traditional pension plans were at their peak in the mid 1980s, fewer than half of Americans working for private companies were covered -- and only a fraction of those workers stayed with a company long enough to receive benefits. More retirees today get income from employer-based plans such as 401(k)s than they ever did from traditional pensions, reports Mary Beth Franklin in her cover story.

Of course, you also have more responsibility for managing your money in 401(k) and similar plans. And let's face it: Not everyone has the desire or the expertise to do it. But -- more positive news -- people nearing retirement are getting help in the form of investment advice and new products and strategies aimed at creating a steady income stream (see our portfolio worksheet). Even though younger workers may have doubts about Social Security, they could be in even better shape than their elders because they'll be automatically enrolled in savings plans and have simplified investment options geared toward retirement, such as target-date funds.


Target-date funds have been criticized for downplaying risks and not disclosing investment strategies. But the best of the bunch are pretty transparent about what they're up to. For instance, when I look up T. Rowe Price's 2020 fund, in which I'm invested through my Kiplinger 401(k), I can see that 70% of the fund's assets are in stocks (risky, but okay with me) and that 24% are in foreign stocks and bonds -- also okay with me because it offers diversification outside the U.S..

On the job. It's true that you may have to work longer than you anticipated before you retire. But, hey, this isn't France. Although you often hear dark humor about Walmart greeters in walkers, even before the financial meltdown baby-boomers were talking about remaining on the job to stay mentally active. Mary Beth points out that when age 65 was established as the official retirement age back in 1935, average life expectancy at birth was 62; now it's 78. And working just a couple of years longer can make a big difference in your savings.

To give you specific retirement advice, we're partnering with the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors for the tenth time to sponsor Jump-Start Your Retirement Plan Days on Friday, January 21, and Tuesday, January 25. Call 888-919-2345 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. eastern time and you'll be able to speak with a NAPFA member. Or join an online discussion with a NAPFA adviser. Whatever your age, you'll get help to realize your positive potential.

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