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The Retirement Nightmare: Half of Americans Have Less Than $2,000 Banked for Their Golden Years

With declining earnings and a culture of borrow-and-consume, America's workers face a future of uncertainty and little money to pay for their retirement.

The days of quietly retiring with a nest egg built up from years of savings from a long career on the verge of disappearing. For tens of millions of Americans, facing rising costs, shrinking incomes and growing debts they already have disappeared.

"One out of three working Americans does not have retirement savings beyond Social Security, and about 35% of those over 65 rely almost totally on Social Security alone," Dallas Salisbury, president of the Alliance for Investor Education and the Employee Benefit Research Institute ( EBRI) , explained to AlterNet. "Of the remaining two-thirds of working Americans that have some retirement savings,  27 percent report less than $1,000, 16 percent between $1,000 and $9,999, 11 percent between $10,000 and $24,999, 12 percent between $25,000-$49,999, and 36 percent $50,000 or more." Perhaps the most shocking number is that half of Americans have $2,000 or less saved for retirement. 

Crunch the numbers and you end up with a retirement myth, rather than a money-maker.  We face a colder economic reality: Not only are there no astronomical retirement returns coming down the financial pike, but what nuts and nest-eggs families have set aside for their futures have been mostly sucked dry

"Individuals need to follow the advice of the ages," said Salisbury. "Spend less than you earn by 25 percent, and save for your future. This keeps your lifestyle from getting ahead of your income."

While saving 1/4 of our shrinking incomes sounds nigh on impossible in this economic climate, many are watching their savings getting squandered by bad fund managers. One retirement Ponzi scheme starting to worry the Senate Special Committee on Aging, according to an aide who asked not to be named, are target-date funds, a financial instrument . They're basically mutual funds that try to play equities and stocks in their early years before settling into more conservative investments like cash and fixed-income before maturing, so as not to give their investors heart attacks on the date of their retirement. As imagined, given our wheezing global economy, target-date funds are leaking money to managers who are charging insane fees before the house of cards crashes. In July, the SEC proposed new rules to make target-date funds more transparent, but lately the SEC has been proposing much while the banksters and executives that really run the country have continued to fund everything from Barack Obama's election to the Republican Party itself.

In related news, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are free to spend, pardon the pun, as much as they want to buy political candidates In other words, even if your target-date fund survives the banksters' scams by the time it finally matures, there's no guarantee it can't be downsized by them at a moment's notice. To quote Wikipedia, "almost all target date funds do not have any guarantee." The banksters and the SEC know it, and now so do you.

But what can we do about it? Nothing, if we don't accept the fact that we're quickly turning into a world of freelancers in search of our next check. Which, of course, we'd all like to divide accordingly to live comparatively well and invest in a nest-egg for a more convenient future. But in an economic environment that is alternately unable to provide job growth or security, and is infested by market-makers armed with supercomputers and math and Ph.Ds, that's unlikely and illogical.

"I think Americans will no longer have retirements that demand no additional work," Sara Horowitz, executive director of the nonprofit Freelancers Union, explained to AlterNet. "They will lessen work in old age. In other words, retirement will increasingly mean becoming an independent worker."

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