In “The Recession Hurt Americans' Retirement Accounts More Than Anybody Knew” I take on the conventional wisdom that retirement balances that fell sharply in the aftermath of the financial crisis quickly recovered. This story papers over a more complicated and worrying reality.
The familiar story goes like this: after losing $2.4 trillion in the second half of 2008, the nation’s 401(k)s quickly recovered with the S&P 500, which grew 54% in the two years following the recession. Indeed, average retirement account balances among older workers increased by 7% over this period. As it so often does, however, this average belies tremendous variation among individuals.
Roughly 45% of workers age 51-59 saw their retirement balances fall during the 2009-2011 recovery. Once retirement account balances fall, they may never fully recover, especially for older workers. If your account loses 25% of its value, it will have to increase by 33% just to make up the difference.
Our current retirement savings system exposes workers to far too much risk and uncertainty. The solution is Guaranteed Retirement Accounts, which would pool and professionally manage savings, and promise seniors a rate of return so they can choose when to retire.