Americans Seem to Have Given Up on Retirement Plans


This chart gets filed under things that leave me scratching my head. It’s from a survey published in the latest EBRI newsletter, and it shows how much people value certain kinds of job benefits. Health coverage is #1, unsurprisingly. But the perceived importance of retirement benefits has plummeted over the past couple of decades. This applies to both traditional pensions and 401(k) plans. Retirement benefits are still considered “very important” or “extremely important” by three-quarters of those surveyed, but fewer than half rank retirement benefits as one of the two most important benefits. That compares to nearly 90 percent who did so in 1999.

I’m really not sure what to make of this. Is it because Americans have given up on retirement plans they think are too cheap to make much difference? Do lots of Americans not plan to retire, for either good or bad reasons? Do they think Social Security will be sufficient? None of these explanations makes much sense. But what does?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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