America, a Nation Where People Work Until They Die

underground mining
underground mining

The Employee Benefit Research Institute released a study that shows what almost everyone already knows. Americans have too little money to retire, and they know it. The solution is not quite as clear as the problem, but most economists believe people will have to work until they are much older. This may block young people from getting work in jobs that might have been theirs in generations past.

The resulting underemployment among these young will remain high. Of course, this means they will be unable to make the money they need to retire. America has become a nation in which people will work until they die.

The new data show that:

The percentage of workers confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement is essentially unchanged from the record lows observed in 2011. While more than half express some level of confidence (13 percent are very confident and 38 percent are somewhat confident), 28 percent are not at all confident (up from 23 percent in 2012 but statistically equivalent to 27 percent in 2011), and 21 percent are not too confident.

These data cannot be set against the number of people who will retire in the next two decades because that method would be too inexact, but the population that cannot retire certainly stretches into the tens of millions.

Among the by-products of these problems is the notion that people will need Social Security and Medicare more than ever. This belief comes at a time when many politicians have come to believe what most economists say: entitlements are too expensive and Social Security payments will need to be cut or delayed until people are older. Old people tend to vote more than young people do. The armies of AARP members who make up much of the population over 50 will gang up on politicians who want to curtail their retirement benefits. After all, these people did pay into the system for decades.

Beyond, and perhaps more important than, the fight over the social safety net will be the explosion of old people who will work at McDonald's Inc. (NYSE: MCD) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT). They will be forced to work in these places because of their lack of retirement savings. Many will work for the minimum wage because the old are not attractive to employers, as many studies have shown.

America will become a nation of old people who do not live terribly high above the poverty line, working until they die.

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Economy, Labor Tagged: featured, MCD, WMT