Start saving for retirement

This editorial appeared in the Kansas City Star.

Many Americans are reconsidering their family budgets as prices for food, gas, health care and other essentials continue to rise — while stock-market and real estate losses have cut into their assets.

But this task may be particularly important for workers who are nearing the traditional retirement age without substantial savings. Unfortunately, this is a very large category.

A new study by the Ernst & Young accounting firm offers this disturbing estimate: Three-fourths of Americans aged 58 to 65 will outlive their savings unless they slash their pre-retirement standard of living by more than a third.

Most middle-class new retirees will run into financial trouble, too, the study warns.

The study was done for Americans for Secure Retirement, a coalition of organizations interested in retirement security.

Saving more money for retirement is largely an individual responsibility, and it is one that millions of Americans need to take more seriously.

But public policy should encourage significantly higher rates of personal savings for lower- and middle-income people. It should protect pensions and aggressively pursue swindlers who prey on the financially gullible.

Local, state and federal governments must work harder to reduce their own waste and inefficiency, enabling taxpayers to keep more money in their own pockets.

The federal government must revamp policies that are hammering the middle class with huge cost increases in health care, higher education and other key areas.

And Washington must finally get serious about repairing Social Security and Medicare so that they can help lower- and middle-class retirees meet the difficult challenges ahead.