Americans Racking Up Debt Faster Than We Save For Retirement

This seems to be the week for sad news about Americans and our retirement-saving behavior. A new study shows that while we might be sticking money in our 401(k) plan like dutiful money squirrels, in general, Americans aren’t doing ourselves any favors for retirement as we rack up debt at a higher rate than we sock away money.

That’s okay: our younger readers weren’t expecting to retire until they’re 73. But the number of “debt savers” out there is a proportion of all workers, not just the young. Debt savers may never be able to retire. Generally, people put away the mandatory 6.2% of their pay for Social Security, and then 5% of their pay in a retirement savings plan, plus any employer matches.

The good news is that Americans who are close to retirement are paying down their debts, which is what financial planners say is what they should be doing. The bad news is that many households are treading water on old debts or accumulating new ones, which takes even more money out of retirement accounts and means they’ll be paying accounts off well into retirement.

The 401(K) is a great investment vehicle as long as people invest well, save consistently, and don’t have to raid their accounts in a financial crisis. Americans as a whole are terrible at all of these things, even before you take debt levels into account.

Data in this new study, from financial information company HelloWallet, came from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation and the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances.

Most Americans accumulating debt faster than they’re saving for retirement [Washington Post]
Debt Savers [HelloWallet]

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