Retirement Crisis … And Opportunities

Ah, football. Still savoring that first weekend.

But my pigskin party was interrupted yesterday by the latest evidence that the average American family is woefully unprepared for retirement.

The Economic Policy Institute, CNBC reported, found the average retirement savings of all U.S. families is around $96,000, which is low, and even worse when you consider that includes a small number of ultra-rich families that boost the average considerably.

Indeed, the median savings (for the family at the 50th percentile) is only $5,000.

I haven’t run the numbers through one of those online retirement calculators, but $5,000 strikes me as … not enough.

If you’re reading this, you care about your investments so you probably have a considerably bigger nest egg. And good for you. Back pats all around.

But that most Americans don’t have anywhere near what they’ll need to retire affects the rest of us.

It means that despite the doom-and-gloom predictions we often hear, Social Security payments are unlikely to shrink, as they may be all that prevents the kind of poverty we haven’t seen among senior citizens since the Great Depression. The political pressure to prevent that will be immense. Instead, look for Congress to eventually find a fix to the long-term shortfall in the Social Security trust fund, probably through a combination of raising the retirement age and increasing taxes on wealthier Americans.

It means that millions of older Americans will move in with relatives. It’ll be a return to old-fashioned, multi-generational households that may have some cultural benefits – but will place a huge burden on the sandwich generation of middle-aged folks supporting three generations under one roof.

And it means that Americans will stay in the workforce longer than they had expected or wanted to. That’s not necessarily bad: we’re all living longer, and many are living healthier, so there’s no reason we can’t work well into our 70s if we can. But this trend may undermine past predictions of a huge shift in lifestyle, spending habits and behavior of the Baby Boomers as they hit age 67.

Whatever happens, we’re watching these great shifts and have many profitable plays on them throughout our Investing Daily publications. For example, we have healthcare plays in Personal Finance, biotech plays in Breakthrough Tech Profits, and even leisure plays in Profit Catalyst. You better believe we’ll ready to pounce on opportunities to profit—we’ve got retirements to pay for too!

Meanwhile, the plot thickens regarding the chances of a Fed rate hike next week. Yesterday Fed Governor Lael Brainard (incidentally, a front runner to be Treasury Secretary if Hillary Clinton wins) strongly suggested she’d oppose an increase at this point. My colleague Linda McDonough gives her take in her column, Welcome to the Tantrum Zone.