Why Baby Boomers Are Doomed

Business Insider
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March 10 2014 5:30 PM

Why Baby Boomers Are Doomed

A couple sits on the beach.
So much for that lazy retirement on the beach.

Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

It's no great secret that America is getting older.

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But John Stoltzfus, chief market strategist at Oppenheimer, says the retirement investment landscape is worse than people think.

"No one wants to talk about just how unprepared the Baby Boomer generation is for the years when they will no longer be able to work," Oppenheimer's John Stoltzfus told Business Insider in a recent interview.

Now he's laying out reasoning. Here's Stoltzfus' 11 reasons to be concerned about this aging demographic:

  1. The wholesale demise or dismantling of traditional defined benefit pension programs by corporations looking to cut expenses and liabilities that has occurred in the past 10 to 15 years.
  2. The widespread underuse of 401(k) plans (defined contribution plans) by eligible plan participants as well as those who qualify for but don't enroll in 401(k) plans at all. We'd note that 401(k) plans often replace traditional pension plans when an employer closes the defined benefit plan but still wants to offer employees a retirement savings plan in the employment benefit menu.
  3. Potential for increasingly later age requirements ahead to get full Social Security benefits as Washington lawmakers work to preserve the program for Boomers and generations that follow.
  4. Reduced cost of living increases likely ahead for those receiving benefits in a pro-austerity environment.
  5. A pronounced and general ignorance by the general public of the importance of asset allocation and long-term planning in allocating money within 401(k) plans.
  6. The tendency for 401(k) participants to select low yielding nonfluctuating choices on 401(k) menus as a result of the tech bubble, the financial crisis of 2008, other past bubbles, along with prominent news items that accentuate the negatives of investing vs. the positives in a landscape of job insecurity.
  7. General lack of discipline and commitment to a personal investment program by many individuals either as a result of job insecurity or personal choice.
  8. Emphasis by too many individuals on DIY programs that focus mostly on fee containment and present the individual with programs heavy on brochures or website generalities and little access to the 1:1 or team capabilities available from experienced market and retirement professionals.
  9. Taking early distributions from 401(k) plans to meet nonemergency needs.
  10. Taking early distributions from 401(k) plans as the result of personal emergencies tied to job loss, health, and other unavoidable issues.
  11. Low interest rates in traditional savings vehicles and in much of fixed income product over the past five years that has compounded the likely problem ahead instead of compounding the money placed in them.

"All 11 of these points add up to a veritable recipe for trouble for a generation as well as for the society and generations that will have to support those unprepared for 'the long haul' ahead once they can no longer work," he concludes.

Steven Perlberg is a reporter for Business Insider covering markets and finance.

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