Housing Tops Costs for Baby Boomers Without Retirement Savings

Even more than their peers of 20 years ago, those entering retirement today, primarily of the baby boom era, are spending more on mortgage debt and health care costs. In addition, their retirement savings aren’t even close to what is recommended by financial professionals. 

More boomers aged 45 to 64 are heading into retirement saddled with mortgages and paying more for healthcare than their age peers of 20 years ago, according to a new study by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey.

Real incomes for middle-aged to older workers haven’t changed very much in the past two decades, the researchers found. And while boomers are contributing to their retirement accounts, they’re not saving enough.

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“Contrary to the belief that the savings rate has been stagnant, or even declined, retirement accounts appear to be playing a larger role for baby boomers,” says the NCPA study. “However, retirement savings is nowhere near the 10 percent that is typically recommended as the share of income that should be dedicated to savings.”

The portion of disposable income households are spending on certain categories of goods and services has increased, including healthcare, and housing is the typically the largest monthly consumer expenditure for households, says NCPA.

Healthcare expenditures, including all out-of-pocket expenses and insurance premium expenses, rose 30% for the 45 to 54 age range, and 21% for 55 to 64 year olds, according to NCPA’s research.

Meanwhile, home mortgages comprise almost three-quarters of all consumer debt. Applied to boomers, that means more people approaching retirement still have mortgages, and will probably still owe money on their homes upon retiring.

One reason this is happening is because the average age of the first-time homebuyer increased from age 28 in 1985 to age 35 in 2011, according to the study. “As the age of the first-time homebuyer increases, the probability that a household will carry a mortgage into its preretirement years also increases,” says NCPA.

Although many are still paying off mortgages and have higher healthcare expenditures, boomers aged 55 to 64 have managed to increase their contributions to retirement savings. Pension contributions more than doubled from 2.3% in 1990, to 5.5% in 2010, according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey.

But despite that doubling, it still won’t be enough for many to comfortably retire.

“Saving for retirement is more than a public policy problem: it is a cultural issue,” says the NCPA. The organization recommends several policy changes, including reforming the income tax system and amending public policies so that all forms of saving are tax-neutral.

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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