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Boomers Report No Savings at All

With fewer pensions and more debt, they face retirement challenges their parents didn't

Stagnant wages, heavy debt

To some extent, boomers are more encumbered by debt because their wages remained relatively stagnant for years, says Christian Weller, a public policy professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a research group in Washington.

Add to that their penchant to spend beyond their means while saving less than what's considered adequate for retirement, and a questionable outlook emerges.

Retirement planning

— Getty Images

Running out of money

When the "silent generation" began retiring more than 20 years ago, they were the last group to be widely covered by traditional pensions. Today just 10 percent of private companies provide employees with guaranteed lifelong income when they retire, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Consequently, 401(k) plans have become the main source of retirement income for workers of all ages. But because such plans are tied to the market, it's somewhat of a guess how well they'll perform.

If investors haven't saved enough, or their portfolios and housing values decline just as they hit retirement age, they may end up carrying more debt in retirement. Worse, they could run out of money in their later years.

"People are reacting to this by working longer. They're realizing that they can't retire as young as their parents did," says Richard Johnson, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Urban Institute.

"Since the early 1990s, men's labor participation rates have increased. More people are not retiring, or they're retiring later and it's driven by economics."

Health care costs a big worry

Many workers are staying on the job longer just to keep health insurance, especially as companies increasingly do away with retiree coverage to contain costs.

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