"Saving for retirement is a formidable challenge for middle-class Americans," the San Francisco-based bank says.
A formidable challenge? No kidding. More than a third of middle-class families aren't saving anything in a 401(k), IRA or other vehicle, the survey found. For those 50 to 59 years old, it's 41%.
More cause for concern: For respondents aged 30 to 49, some 59% say they "plan to save later to make up retirement savings," and 27% are not currently contributing savings to a retirement plan or account.
The idea that you can make up later what you fail to save today is, of course, a chimera. For one thing, saving doesn't typically get easier as you grow older; you may be bringing more in as you advance in a career, but you're shoveling out more, too -- child-rearing expenses, college tuition, possibly even support for aging parents. And the longer you put off launching a retirement fund, the less you benefit from the magic of compound interest or long-term investment growth.
No wonder that 68% of the survey's respondents admitted that saving for retirement is "harder than I anticipated."
There's little new in these findings. They echo the findings of last year's installment in the Wells Fargo series, when more than a third of respondents said they expected to work at least until 80 to have enough to retire on.
The findings also echo those of other studies of retirement security, notably
There's also the systematic evisceration of defined-benefit pensions, which are shielded from market downturns, and their replacement by 401(k)s and other such defined-contribution plans, which impose all the risk of market misfortunes on the would-be retiree.
All this points ever more strongly to an inescapable solution to Americans' retirement quandary: expanding Social Security. The program is immune from market influences, operates with rock-bottom administrative costs, and forces workers to place saving for retirement front and center.
Those who claim that increasing benefits is unnecessary because America's retirees are secretly rich -- a notion recently bandied about by independent benefits consultant Sylvester Schieber and Andrew Biggs of the