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Ready for Retirement? Fewer and Fewer Americans Are Saving for That Time

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Thus, the nearly half the adults in America who haven’t saved remain childlike and live in barbarism.

For those who are saving, volatile markets point to a less-than-cozy retirement for the majority. Last year’s beat down of the average 401(k) plan was 20 percent, which didn’t help. But retirement participants are keeping the sunny-side up, believing “they’ll move closer to their retirement goal by ending 2023 with more in retirement savings than at the end of 2022.” We can only wonder what makes folks believe that.

Most retirement savings are invested in index funds which track the S&P 500 and, “particularly for older savers, in actively managed equity funds heavily weighted in the benchmark index’s top stocks,” writes Woolley.

Shares of giant tech companies, fueled by zero-percent interest rates, fooled individual investors into believing these stocks would go straight up forever, or at least until they retire, funding carefree years of traveling the world, going on cruises, and blissfully falling asleep while watching golf on weekends.

“Most investors aren’t adjusting their retirement plans despite the uncertain economic outlook and recent losses in their accounts,” writes Woolley. “Some 56 percent of survey respondents said they were sticking with their retirement plans.”

Only 8 percent are thinking about never retiring. More people need to think again. That number will increase.

There are fewer 401(k) millionaires after last year’s stock and bond market thumping. That club shrank by a third. At the end of last year, accounts at Fidelity with million-dollar balances declined to 299,000, from the previous year’s year-end total of 442,000, reports Bloomberg’s Woolley.

There may be even fewer at the end of this year. Rob Arnott, cofounder of Research Affiliates, told Bloomberg this year’s early bounce in tech names is a “dead cat bounce” and you shouldn’t rush back into these stocks. “The crash is far from finished.”

As mentioned above, nearly half of Americans haven’t saved a penny for retirement—those people don’t know or care what Fidelity and Vanguard are. They may not have a bank account. According to our friends at the FDIC, “An estimated 4.5 percent of U.S. households were ‘unbanked’ in 2021, meaning that no one in the household had a checking or savings account at a bank or credit union. This represents approximately 5.9 million U.S. households, compared to 7.1 million in 2019.”

“Thus, by virtue of the saver’s saving, even the most present-oriented person will be gradually transformed from a barbarian to a civilized man,” Hoppe explained. “His life ceases to be short, brutish, and nasty, and becomes longer, increasingly refined, and comfortable.” It doesn’t take $3 to $5 million to be civilized, but nonsavers have little comfort to look forward to.


Doug French

Douglas French is President Emeritus of the Mises Institute, author of Early Speculative Bubbles & Increases in the Money Supply, and author of Walk Away: The Rise and Fall of the Home-Ownership Myth. He received his master's degree in economics from UNLV, studying under both Professor Murray Rothbard and Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

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