The economic downturn won't delay most baby boomer retirements
You've probably seen the commercial: A bald, 50-something white guy sits in a coffee shop in the middle of the day, instant- messaging on his laptop while sipping from his cup. A message pops up: "Remember how we used to say 'WHEN' we retire, like it was a sure thing?" He smiles ruefully. "I know," he responds. "Then it became a lot of 'WILL WE' retire."
His unidentified correspondent then delivers the dagger: "How do we get from 'WILL WE' back to 'WHEN WE'?" Our protagonist looks into the distance, pensive and worried, while the reassuring voice of the John Hancock investment firm offers you advice.
The downturn of 2008 and 2009 has raised this popular concern: Having seen their portfolios decimated, baby boomers nearing retirement age have been forced to put off world-travel plans or that move to Florida and instead must contemplate reentering the workforce to rebuild their nest eggs.
Seems plausible, but economists Alan Gustman and Nahid Tabatabai of Dartmouth College and Thomas Steinmeier of Texas Tech argue otherwise. In a recent study, they conclude that the stock market declines of 2008 and 2009 will not result in massive losses for the typical near-retiree. In fact, they may postpone their retirement by only a month and a half, on average, and in some cases may even accelerate it.
Relying on 2006 data from the University of Michigan's Health and Retirement Study, the authors find that, once you include expected Social Security benefits, along with pensions and other assets, Americans age 53 to 58 have just 15.2 percent of their wealth tied up in the stock market, mostly through IRAs and direct investments. "For most of those approaching retirement age, while losing several percentage points of this total is certainly a significant average loss . . . those losses will not be life-changing," they write. Moreover, the recession that began in late 2007 has so worsened job prospects, they posit, that an overall increase in retirements may result -- leaving boomers plenty of time to sit in their local Starbucks and instant-message their friends.
-- Carlos Lozada