When it comes to saving and investing for retirement many of us have our head in the sand. With financial demands in the here and now competing for our hard earned dollars we feel as if there is nothing to spare to save for a future that seems, and sometimes is, decades away. Our list of financial obligations is endless – education for ourselves or our children, a home, a car, medical expenses for ourselves or our parents. And what about the niceties of life? Retirement becomes the last item on our to-do list. Something to be dealt with someday. But someday is going to arrive sooner than we think, and we all need to be planning for our long-term financial security.
Every cohort of investors, be it baby boomers, gen-xers or millennials, brings their own unique attitude towards investing for retirement, shaped by their own historical life experiences. Coming of age in a time of prosperity and easy credit, boomers have not been a generation of savers. When the stock market tanked in 2008 many saw what retirement savings they did have diminish. But as they have before, boomers are using their ranks to redefine retirement.
Whereas earlier generations were able to depend on a work-sponsored pension plan that financed a shorter retirement based on a shorter lifespan, boomers are hitting retirement age in better health and with longer expected lifespans. With no pension to depend on, this new phase of planning is called “DIY retirement.” With retirements that could last 20 years, the new retirement model sees people working longer, or working part-time to make up for the gap in savings. Boomers are even looking at shared housing as a way to keep expenses down.
While boomers are bringing their unique touch to how we see and ‘do’ retirement, there is a lesson here for gen-xers and millennials – start investing now because time is on your side. (See IPI’s 5 Keys to Investing Success) Gen-xers seem to have taken a cue from boomers and are more realistic about what retirement has in store for them, and what it will take to get them there. They have been more responsible and likely envision a more modest retirement, but they still have to boost their savings.
Millennials, who have seen their boomer parents affected by the 2008 market and are more cautious than any other cohort, are playing things a little too safe. They may be saving, but they are keeping their savings liquid rather than investing for the future, losing out on their greatest asset – time. To add to their burden, most millennials are struggling under crushing student loan debt (See IPI’s Survey of Millennials and College Debt).
Although this time of retirement planning is called “DIY” you don’t have to go it alone. Along with tools on the Investor Protection Institute website, the documentary When I’m 65 (wi65.org), produced by Detroit Public Television with the support of Investor Protection Institute, takes a look at each of these cohorts, the human behavior that drives our decision making in regards to investing, and how to approach “DIY retirement.” Check your local PBS listings, or view the documentary online at wi65.org.