The New York Times/Yahoo offer this:
... [T]he Employee Benefit Research Institute found the majority of American workers had put away less than $25,000 for their golden years. But even those people are in better financial shape than Susanna Wilson, 70, who saved nothing.
Her only dependable income is a Social Security check of about $900 a month.
“I can never retire,” she said, her voice trembling as she stared at the floor of her living room in Grass Valley, Calif. “Probably about every two weeks when the bills are due, that’s when I get really worried. I think ‘How am I going to pay this one?’ ” ...
Ms. Wilson is not unlike people in their late fifties and sixties who have come into my office. Their stories, quite similar to hers, often go like this:
"I've been working for thirty years without a problem, but now all the work's dried up. I can't get on anywhere. I've only got fifteen years in the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan because I worked half of that time non-union.
"I've got five thousand dollars saved up, and that's it. And I'm three years away from Social Security. What can you do for me?"
More often than not, my answer is "Not much."
Here are the realities about life in the United States, circa 2011:
1) Social Security will be around for awhile, but no way is it going to cover your living expenses in retirement if you choose to hang onto your working-years lifestyle. And/or stay in the country.
2) Defined Benefit Plans (monthly annuities) are steadily disappearing from the American landscape. The Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan, one of the hardy survivors, is okay but not overly generous. And you may not have a lot of years in it, so the payout might be skimpy.
3) Most people are way too optimistic about how much their 401(k) Plan will earn, and tend to underfund it. Many other people don't participate in a 401(k) Plan at all because they are in and out of work a lot and need every dime, or simply can't be bothered.
4) Most people don't invest money outside of their retirement accounts, but live paycheck to paycheck.
Susanna Wilson, when you strip away all the bark, is a lot like men and women working in the animation business. She went job to job, she was in and out of the work force, she hit various road bumps as she moved down Life's Highway.
And she didn't save anything.
That, friends and neighbors, is the nub of it: If you reach your sixties and you've got little in the bank, you will likely find yourself between a rock and a bigger, harder rock. Because that support group you relied in for work has up and retired, and employment opportunities will dwindle. And you are probably too old to retrain and start a new career. And you are still a few years away from Medicare, Social Security and the industry pension.
Which is why I am telling you for the umpteenth time to start socking it away. (The earlier you do this, the better off you will be.) Why I am telling you to use your 401(k) Plan, even if there is no match. (And more and more there is no match.) Why I am telling you to wise up and take a long hard look at the choices you're making and the road you're on and whether they will serve your purposes over the next twenty or thirty years.
You don't think about these things today, you'll be crying about these things several thousand tomorrows from now. Maybe even sooner.
In the meantime, here are the TAG 401(k) Information and Enrollment Meetings that have been set up for working members over the next couple of weeks:
Disney TV Animtn -- Mon., Mar. 28, 10-11 a.m., Rm. 1173
Disney Toons -- Mon. Mar. 28, 2-3 p.m., Rm. 2025
WDAS -- Tues. Mar. 29, 10-11 a.m., Conf. Rm. 1300
DWA -- Tues. Mar. 29, 2-3 p.m., Dining Rooms B & C
CN Studio -- Wed. Mar 30, 12-1 p.m., conf. rm.
6point2 -- Wed. Mar. 30, 3-4 p.m.
Fox Animtn -- Thurs. Mar. 31, 2-3 p.m.
WB Animtn -- Mon. Aprl 4, 10-11 a.m., conf. rm.
Sony Pict. Anmtn -- Tues. Aprl 5, 2-3 p.m.
Film Rmn -- Wed. Aprl 6, 10-11, glass conf. rm.
Nick Studio -- Thurs., April 7, 2-3 p.m., conf. rm.