When I'm Sixty-Four: The Plot against Pensions and the Plan to Save Them

By Teresa Ghilarducci | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

The Collapse of Retirement Income

Retirement income is falling.

It is less secure.

And it is distributed more unevenly across income, class, and gender lines.

What is the inevitable result? For most of the elderly, the material standard of living will fall when they are retired because their retirement income will replace much less of their pre-retirement income. To maintain their standard of living when they do retire, the elderly will likely delay retirement, continue working if possible, or look for work.

This chapter begins by considering retirement income needs, the sources of retirement income, and what is predicted to happen to retirement income in the United States. We will examine the special retirement income needs of women and why their needs remain unmet by the American pension system; regarding men, this chapter will explain why and how men are more adversely affected by the decline in secure sources of retirement income. We will see why low-income workers are facing bleak prospects in retirement, despite the gains in their retirement income made in the recent past.


What People Need in Retirement

It has been commonly accepted that the income needed in retirement is between 60% and 85% of preretirement income, depending on how high or low that income is. (People having lower incomes need the higher percentage.) During the years when people work, they need to: maintain a reliable car and pay for commuting expenses; maintain a wardrobe suitable for work; pay for meals away from home; pay Social Security taxes; and, besides other work-related expenses, they need to save for retirement. People who are retired no longer have these expenses to pay nor obligations to save. Moreover,

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