Magazine article Reason

The Best Reason for Private Retirement Accounts

Magazine article Reason

The Best Reason for Private Retirement Accounts

Article excerpt

LIKE MANY--probably most--Americans, I got a late start on saving for my golden years, not throwing a single penny into any sort of retirement account until well into my 30s.

There were many reasons for this. I grew up in a household in which there was relatively little money to begin with and even less understanding about how to handle it well, especially when it came to such distant and mythical events as retirement. (Work was, after all, something you did until you dropped dead--partly because you worked so long--or got canned because you were too old to produce.) In the first half of my 20s, I'd work for a few months, save money, and then travel until I ran out of money. In the second half, I was in grad school, scraping by on minimal stipends and fellowships and amassing student-loan and credit-card debt as I made a long-odds investment in what economists would call my "human capital."

It took a long time to pay that debt down and get real about retirement planning. Having kids helped immensely on the latter score, as virtually every financial planner will tell you that the best thing you can do for your children is to take care of your own retirement.

Mine is a pretty typical tale when it comes to retirement savings, and it helps explain why Social Security reform is the hottest policy topic of the day. It is also the topic of our cover story, "The Death of Social Security," a fiery debate between investment author James K. …

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