Megan McArdle's review of the state of retirement planning is not very encouraging. Writing for The Daily Beast, she says if you look at the average retirement savings, things look pretty good: There is $136,000 in defined pension benefits, $94,000 in retirement accounts, $104,000 in housing equity and more than $300,000 of other assets.
Social Security benefits average at $160,000.
"Unfortunately, those are just averages: If you put me and Warren Buffett in a room together," McArdle quips, "our average wealth is in the billions, but I still can't buy a yacht."
This is an example of when averages deceive. A better way to look at this type of data is to look at the median. The median is the middle point in the data. What do things look like for people in the middle?
"Social Security is still there," McArdle says. "But 50 percent of Americans have $4,500 or less in a retirement account. Half of retirees and near-retirees have less than $75,000 worth of home equity. The median amount of other assets is about $45,000. Since you have to live in the house, this tells us that most older Americans are approaching retirement with very little in the way of a nest egg."
Whatever the reason, people are just not preparing for retirement. Preparing well takes good advice. Christine Dugas talks about this in USA Today and how the financial advice for middle class people needs to be different than the advice given to the rich.
The article explains about the NAPFA website, napfa.org, an association of financial advisers who work for a fee. Dugas described in the article how one planner helped a couple, Sue and Steve Manseaus, plan their retirement.
"(The planner) was able to show us that we really can retire," Sue Manseaus told USA Today. "It may not be with lots of trips or living in a gorgeous home, but it is doable if we follow what she has recommended. And that is a huge relief."
Just make sure you meet with a financial planner before you buy a yacht.