We all should've started saving for retirement yesterday. We know this, yet most of us can barely keep our spending in line with our incomes. And when we try to start saving, we are either overwhelmed with options (best case scenario) or with figures that spell inevitable doom.
The Asset Building Program's Olivia Calderon spoke Friday on the Greenlining Institute and Southern California Public Radio's Forum on Economic Insecurity for Seniors of Color- offering realistic, utterly necessary policy recommendations to help get people on the path to security (and out of retirement-statistic-induced depression).
Seventy-eight percent of American seniors are now estimated to be financially vulnerable. And worse, 9 out of 10 black and Latino seniors are. More than half of all Americans are off track in their retirement plans. In California, the crash in home values has left seniors (especially minority seniors) who planned to live off the equity of their house at risk. Perhaps most depressing for those who work to implement corrective policies, Friday's panelist from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney suggested taking in boarders, a reverse mortgage, or help from family as options for vulnerable seniors. If that's the best advice we can give our elderly, something has to change.
The panel, which also included Assemblyman Mike Eng and was moderated by Laura Trejo of the Los Angeles Department of Aging, posed these problems and more. But let's focus on the solutions: portable, automatic, retirement accounts to which regular working people can deposit small, set portions of their paycheck; continued protections to a safety net that keeps those too old to work in relative security; the resolve that future seniors will not enter their golden years in such a sorry state. Because the burden of worry should not be borne by those who have lived and worked and made it to retirement.
Their situation is one that reminds us that yes, it is important to save, even in a recession. Because not doing so leads to depression.