Way too often, working Americans find themselves between a rock and a hard place in saving for retirement.
Take Ken Bodnar, a former chief technology officer for a financial services company, who lost his job to external circumstances.
Bodnar, in his mid-fifties, says he couldn't retire due to inadequate retirement funds. But he couldn't get a job to replenish those funds because of his relatively older age in the financial technology industry.
"It was a catastrophe," Bodnar says. "For a solid year, I lived off debt until it became untenable. I was applying for jobs paying less than I was making in 1985 and not getting them. I reduced my expectations from management to line worker, and I had neck ties that were older than the people interviewing me."
Bodnar fought his way out of unemployment, cobbling together a series of freelance "micro-jobs" that required his unique skills (especially for fintech startups) and that paid well, cumulatively. And recently, he was hired as a chief technology officer at a technology firm and again at a data privacy cloud storage company located in the Bahamas.
"I believe I have stumbled upon the future of work for a large number of people," Bodnar explains. "That's especially so for older people who are having difficulty in the job market, or those who haven't saved enough money for retirement and must do something to generate revenue in their golden years."
Bodnar is one of the fortunate ones -- he was able to rebound from a job loss and continue funding his retirement plan, even if he had to find a novel way of doing so.
Others aren't so lucky with their retirement savings.
According to GOBankingRates, in a new report released this week, "One in three Americans has absolutely nothing saved for retirement."
That "bleak" finding is just the tip of a fairly menacing iceberg, retirement savings-wise. In fact, GOBankingRates offers up an additional dish of bad news on the savings front:
* 56% of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement.
* Women are 27% more likely than men to have no retirement savings.
* 72% of Millennials have saved less than $10,000 for retirement -- or nothing at all.
* About 75% of Americans over 40 years old are behind on saving for retirement.
All in all, here's where Americans currently stand with their retirement savings, according to GoBankingRates.
* Less than $10K saved -- 56% of U.S. adults (33% have $0 in retirement savings).
* $10K to $49K -- 10%
* $50K to $99K -- 8%
* $100K to $199K -- 8%
* $200K to $299K -- 5%
* $300K or more --13%
Clearly, it's an uphill climb that a burgeoning number of U.S. workers are unable to make.
"The survey shows that the closer savers get to retirement, the further behind important savings benchmarks they fall," says Elyssa Kirkham, lead reporter on the survey for GOBankingRates. "This means young people won't be as far behind on retirement savings and will also have more time to save. But for older savers nearing retirement, this is an urgent problem they need to proactively address so they can get their retirement savings back on track."
Some financial experts lament the absence of proper financial investment knowledge among workers whose retirement portfolios grow thinner as a result. "Even if a 401(k) is available in the workplace many employees are not familiar with some basic 401(k) terms," notes Douglas Dubitsky, vice president of product management for Guardian Retirement Solutions, a division of Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. "If these terms don't have much of a footprint among participants, then they're not fully engaging with generating retirement savings."
Others say the lack of good retirement saving strategies is not only an education problem, but also a self-assurance problem. "Most Americans are not confident enough to retire comfortably," says Steve Anzuoni, a financial advisor with Fairway Financial in South Yarmouth, Mass. "They don't understand the importance of saving money, and didn't learn proper money management skills from their parents."
Or, the problem could run deeper than simply not knowing about money and finances. "I believe the problem has to do with a bias called hyperbolic discounting," explains Eric Sajdak, chief investment officer at Fox River Capital, a Wisconsin-based registered investment advisory firm. "In that regard, people have trouble accurately valuing the future value of money. Most people irrationally would rather spend $5 on a coffee they can't truly afford today, rather than put that same $5 into a retirement fund."
Whatever the problem (and certainly the reasons above all of have validity), millions of Americans are doing a lousy job of saving for retirement -- and the ramifications of that shortfall will surely be felt across the nation when these workers hit retirement age.