Majority Press

Sen. Collins’ Committee Examines America's Retirement Security

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, led by Chairman Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME), today held a hearing to examine the growing economic challenges facing baby boomers that are financially unprepared for retirement. The hearing, titled “State of the American Senior: The Changing Retirement Landscape for Baby Boomers,” examined issues such as the large number of retired Americans who have no source of retirement income beyond Social Security, and those who do not have adequate savings, many because of losses they incurred during the nation’s 2008 and 2009 financial crisis.

“Far too many American seniors struggle to get by and have real reason to fear they will outlive their savings,” said Senator Collins. “Nationally, one in four retired Americans has no source of income beyond Social Security—in Maine, that number is one in three—and four in ten rely on that vital program for 90 percent of their retirement income. Bear in mind that Social Security provides an average benefit of just $1,230 per month.  It is hard to imaging stretching those dollars far enough to pay the bills,” Senator Collins added.

A number of studies show that for the first time since the Great Depression a majority of Americans are approaching retirement less financially secure than their parents.  From changes in pension plans to health care costs to the recession’s impact on savings and home values, a host of factors are contributing to a seismic decline in retirement prospects.

Senator Collins also raised the issue of whether Social Security officials are doing enough to educate seniors about the huge financial benefit of delaying receipt of their Social Security benefits beyond age 62, which may be feasible for many retirees.  One of the witnesses testified that, while Social Security officials are doing a better job at outlining the benefits of waiting, the agency should be doing more.

Also discussed at today’s hearing was the fact that today’s retirees often have more debt than the previous generation, while at the same time, they lack adequate pension or retirement savings to live a financially comfortable retirement.

Witnesses included: Olivia S. Mitchell, PhD, International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans Professor, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; Paula A. Calimafde, Chair, Small Business Council of America; Richard W. Johnson, PhD, Senior Fellow and Director, Program on Retirement Policy, The Urban Institute; Joanne Jacobsen, Venice, Florida resident who suffered pension losses and now struggles in her retirement.