It was probably inevitable that we would have a “retirement crisis” as hordes of baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) sprint and stumble into their “golden years.” But it’s a fake crisis, even though it’s already becoming a staple of journalism and politics. It presumes that most Americans can’t afford to retire comfortably. Not so.
It’s important to get this right. If we don’t, we risk harboring a fundamentally mistaken and misleading view of the elderly’s well-being. This has political and social consequences in the real world, where more government spending on the old often comes at the expense of the young.
Superficially, the case for a retirement calamity seems strong. A recent Gallup poll found that about half of Americans do not expect to be financially comfortable when they retire, a dramatic increase from one-third when the survey was first taken in 2002.
Look closer, however, and the picture changes dramatically. The pessimistic appraisals apply to non-retirees. As people stop working, their views of their retirement security improve sharply.
The same Gallup survey found that three-quarters of retirees ages 65-80 (77 percent) judged they had enough money to live comfortably. When this group was interviewed in 2002 before retiring, only about half felt they would have adequate income.