Widening Income Gap Threatens Retirement
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) The income gap in America is growing fastest among 35 to 44-year-olds, according to a new report.
"These years can either build a bridge to a successful retirement or leave people well short of their goals," said Chris Kahn, research and statistics analyst with Bankrate.com. "We're seeing a tale of two retirements."
The Bankrate study found that within this age group, the divide grew the highest at 21% from 1992 to 2012.
"Some of the reasons why the income gap is growing so rapidly within this age group are persistently high unemployment as well as stagnant wages," Kahn said. "This stagnation in income combined with rising prices is making it more challenging for people to stay in the middle class or move up."
The bottom fifth of American households earn $11,490 annually on average, the next fifth up earn $29,696, the middle tier earn $51,179 while the next tier up earns $82,098 and the top tier earns $181,905.
"At the higher end of the earnings spectrum, it is much easier to save for retirement, because people can more readily sacrifice luxuries than necessities," said Jeff Gorton, a CPA and financial planner.
The 65-plus age group has long exhibited the widest income gap although it only rose 3% from 1992 to 2012. The income gap among 45- to 54-year-olds rose by 18% or second to the 35- to 44-year-old age group.
"These are the financially bridging years, so if wages remain low and jobs continue to be scarce, it may mean a higher disparity between those who have and those who have not at retirement," said Kimberly Foss, certified financial planner with Empyrion Wealth Management.
The study indicates that while some members of the 35 to 44 group are quickly advancing towards becoming rich, others are falling behind.
"Job creation is one remedy and a watchful eye toward expenses is another," Foss told MainStreet. "Experiencing the affects of the great recession and being underemployed, they have learned to be more frugal with their credit cards, savings and overall living expenses."
From discussions with many of his younger clients, Gorton says he's found a prevailing distrust of the financial markets, which is further fueled by stories in the media about Wall Street's failings.
"The concept of sacrificing on consumption today to invest in a corrupt financial system for a future that is so uncertain is difficult for many young people to entertain," Gorton said. "As such, savings rates are greatly down."
Personal savings in the U.S. decreased to 4.20% in November 2013 from 4.50% in October 2013, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Overall, it increased an average of 6.84% from 1959 until 2013.
"When an individual is struggling to meet today's obligations, funding a retirement thirty years in the future is a very hard sale," Gorton said.