We're just now seeing the results of the nation's "grand experiment" with 401(k) plans as the first generation of workers to embrace the concept reaches retirement age. The results are "truly alarming," writes Duncan Black in USA Today. Many people don't have nearly enough money to pay the bills. One Boston College study shows that the median retirement balance for people ages 55 to 64 is $120,000, a "trivial" supplement to Social Security benefits. What's more, a third of households have no retirement account.
We can try to improve the system—making 401(k) contributions be opt-out instead of opt-in, for example—but tweaks aren't enough, both for workers near retirement age and for their debt-burdened younger counterparts, writes Black. "We need an across the board increase in Social Security retirement benefits of 20% or more. We need it to happen right now, even if that means raising taxes on high incomes or removing the salary cap in Social Security taxes." Click for Black's full column.