Your Finance: U.S. retirement crisis not so dire

Don't look now, but some of the same

Don't look now, but some of the same folks who have been spreading fear about the woeful lack of retirement readiness among American workers have something new to say on the subject: a financial industry study that asserts that we're doing a lot better than we think. (Credit: iStock)

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Don't look now, but some of the same folks who have been spreading fear about the woeful lack of retirement readiness among American workers have something new to say on the subject: a financial industry study that asserts that we're doing a lot better than we think.

"Americans' retirement well-being has improved over time, as successive generations of retirees have been better off than previous generations," says the study, "Our Strong Retirement System: An American Success Story," released last week.

Three organizations, the American Council of Life Insurers, the American Benefits Council and the Investment Company Institute, which represents the mutual fund industry, contributed to the research and published the study.

In mid-2013, the average U.S. household held $167,800 in retirement assets, including traditional pensions, in inflation-adjusted dollars. Compare that with the inflation-adjusted $56,200 in 1985 or $27,300 in 1975. Near-retirees (those between 60 and 64) have nearly $360,000 in their defined contribution accounts and IRAs, on average, the report said.

Here is some more encouraging news about retirement and how to make sure your personal retirement picture is pretty.

Those close to retirement are all right. Fidelity research says the baby boomers, on average, will be able to cover essential household costs in retirement.

Younger workers have time. While young households are not, on average, on track to meet their retirement goals, they have decades to work, plan and save.

You may be able to spend more than you thought you could in retirement. Most retirement calculators and advisers say you can with withdraw 4 percent of your nest egg in the first year, and then increase that by 3 percent a year for inflation.

But new research from T. Rowe Price says that the 4 percent figure "is a relatively conservative initial withdrawal rate." Retirees who are willing to forgo that 3 percent increase in some years -- or who are willing to recalculate their withdrawals annually, based on the size of their nest egg -- may be able to withdraw as much as 7.5 percent in some situations and still not run out of money.

Workers have a big toolbox. If you're not on track to meet your retirement goals, there's a lot you can do to get there.

You can make up lost ground by working a little longer, putting more money in stocks, saving more and being strategic about how and when you take your Social Security benefits.

Once you're retired, you can look into tax-saving strategies and cut your housing costs. Finally, you can trim expenses as you age, which many retirees do.

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