This hasn't been a hopeful news week for the American worker or those looking to retirement.
The fact that we are living longer is good news.
The bad is that most of us have less in savings and investments to spend during those golden years. According to the Employee Benefit research Institute, nearly one third of all American workers have no confidence at all they will have enough assets to support a comfortable retirement. The report says that more than half of all American workers (57 percent) have less than $25,000 in total savings and investments.
The trend has been on a downward spiral since 2009 when 75 percent reported having any retirement savings. That number has since dropped to 66 percent. With the projected lifetimes now at 85 for men and 87 for women, the disappearing nest eggs has pushed the retire option off the table for many.
In fact, debt has replaced retirement savings in many portfolios. Only about half of the people polled said they would be able to handle a $2,000 emergency within a month.
Those who were surveyed made it clear that monetary issues trump any financial planning. By a wide margin, job uncertainty was the most pressing concern of both workers and prospective retirees.
That was followed by the immediate concern of paying bills. Retirement savings ranked a distant third, concerning only two percent of workers and four percent of retirees. Only 46 percent said they have even calculated what it would take for them to live comfortably in retirement.
That wasn't the only bad news confronting the American worker. The Associated Press reported that those earning $35,000 or less annually are generally pessimistic about their finances and career prospects and that many see themselves as worse off now than during the recession.
Nearly two-thirds of lower-wage workers say it is "difficult" or "very difficult" for them and their families to get ahead financially. Half believed that their financial situation was somewhat or much worse than in 2008. Many reported stagnant (44 percent) or declining (20 percent) wages over the past five years.
As in the earlier survey on dwindling assets for older workers, the main worries in the AP study included being unable to pay bills, unexpected medical expenses, losing a job or keeping up with the mortgage or rent payments.
Although this administration is constantly trying to put a positive spin on the numbers, economic growth has been in neutral and unemployment has been stuck just below 8 percent for months under the Obama "recovery." In fact, the economy had recovered only about 5.7 million of the 8.7 million jobs lost in the deepest downturn since the Depression which led into World War 2.
Normally, the first jobs to come back following a recession are in the lowest-paying sector. About 65 percent of the jobs the U.S. economy added since the recession "officially" ended in June 2009 have been lower-wage ones. Low-wage workers seen to be getting smacked at every turn in the Obama economy. This group was among the hardest hit by an increase in Social Security payroll taxes resulting from "fiscal cliff" negotiations late last year between Obama and Congress.
By Jim Zbick