American workers have been hearing dire warnings about the state of retirement for years, but what does this look like at kitchen tables across America? What does a comfortable retirement mean for baby boomers today? What about their kids, saddled with student loans and trying to launch careers in a depressed labor market?
Most Americans haven't saved enough, and high mutual fund fees erode what they have socked away. Even those who have been diligent about saving aren't immune to the financial crisis that led to the Great Recession. The recovery in stock prices has primarily benefited investors who already had enough to ride out the storm.
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Replacing defined-benefit with defined-contribution plans exposed less-sophisticated investors to the market's volatility and put more of the onus on their shoulders to decide where that money should go. It also shifted the responsibility of saving for retirement to workers who have been squeezed by stagnant wages and rising health premiums. For many, the choices are stark: Work longer, scrimp more or adopt lower expectations for a post-retirement lifestyle.
NBC talked to four Americans about their retirement savings. Here are their stories: