This week there were several articles on the subject of how unprepared people are for their financial futures and how little help they will get from a healthy economy (meaning the economy won't be healthy enough to help).
This article from Yahoo says that median annual income adjusted for inflation is 4.4% lower than it was in 2009, 6.1% lower than it was in 2007 and 7.2% lower than it was in 2000. As the economy and various industries evolve, workers get displaced and end up either under employed or finding themselves needing to look for different work altogether because their old job does not exist anymore.
The next one is from a blog at US News that cites the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) as saying the "median retirement savings balance for all working-age households is merely $3,000." That number is for everyone. For people aged 55-64 the figure jumps to $12,000. Again both numbers include everyone which in this context includes people without IRAs or 401ks.
Among people aged 55-64 with IRAs or 401ks the number then jumps to $100,000. These are the lowest numbers I've ever seen in this context (the $3000 and the $12000). These are shockingly low numbers if accurate and it seems reasonable to conclude that folks in their 50s or 60s with $12,000 are not in line to get the maximum social security benefit. These folks really have an emergency fund, relatively modest social security, the expectation of needing to work longer and we don't seem to have any answers.
The last article is a blog post that Zerohedge syndicated from Michael Snyder titled If You Could Make More Money On Welfare Instead Of Working Would You Do It? If Zerohedge is rerunning it then you have some idea of the starting point but there are interesting ideas here. By the author's math there are 12 states where you are better off on welfare up to $15/hour. There are 33 states where welfare is better than an $8/hour job.
The article also states that seven out of every eight jobs created since Obama took office have been part time. I'm not sure that one would survive a fact check but whatever the real number, we know it is not good. The other quote from this article that I found thought provoking for its simplicity was that "our economy simply does not produce enough jobs for everyone anymore."
I think that quote can be applied to a lot of the country's problems and it does not seem as though society at large has the tools needed to solve its own problems.
Any type of work, including mine, is vulnerable to obsolescence or some sort of transformation such that the expected income could change for the worse. I'm sure that any 20 year old who got hired at GM 40 years ago thought he was set for life--work hard and then collect a pension; what's good for GM is good for America.
Long time readers will know how frequently I write about doing what needs to be done to be self sufficient in terms of this kind of problem solving. For years I've been writing about monetizing hobbies and passing along relevant stories about people doing unusual and interesting things as part of their retirement solution (my old neighbor and his backhoe as one example).
It is easy and obvious to say people need to be better educated but I'm not sure anyone knows how to make people, who for whatever reasons choose not make this a priority, all of a sudden come to Jesus on this issue. As I have said many time before, people inclined to seek out information on blogs or other sites are in a better position to better absorb some sort of unexpected outcome. There is literally no limit to the possible solutions for people who put in the time to create their own safety net.