A decade after the Great Financial Crisis and we find that nearly 6 in 10 American workers have still not recovered from that horrific financial event. In a survey of workers from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 56 percent of respondents said they have not fully recovered. 37% of those polled indicated that they had recovered somewhat, 12% said that they had yet to recover, and the remaining 7% felt that they never would recover.
This comes at a time when the country is enjoying a historic equity bull market, unemployment is at decade lows, and median family income has risen for the third consecutive year to >$61,000. What gives? Well, for one, many American workers lost more lucrative jobs during the GFC only to be forced into lower paying occupations just to survive. So, yes, they are employed, but those individuals will never be able to recover when annual incomes have been slashed to the extent that they were.
In addition, many American workers already had their “retirement” plan shifted from a traditional pension, such as a defined benefit fund to a defined contribution offering. For many workers, the shock of seeing the markets fall by roughly 50% has steered many away from continuing to contribute. As a result, only about 50% of American workers have access to or are funding a retirement benefit. So when we discuss the terrific bull market, we are really addressing the 10% of Americans that own 84% of the outstanding stock.
Yes, median family incomes have begun to rise, but the 1.8% increase from 2016 didn’t keep pace with the growth in the CPI. Furthermore, a significant percentage of Americans are now tasked with funding health care and retirement to a greater extent than those from prior generations. Less traditional worker/employer relationships (on-call employment) means fewer benefits in general. In addition, housing and education costs are also rising rapidly. Asking workers who have not been trained to fund, manage, and then disburse a retirement benefit is a poor policy decision.