PBS Documentary Says Boomers are in for a Surprise

May 16, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) says the boomer generation is headed for a shock as it enters retirement.

In an announcement about a FRONTLINE documentary that will air May 16 at 9 p.m. EST, “Can You Afford to Retire,” PBS said Boomers will have a longer life expectancy and not enough income to last. The documentary focuses on the shift from employers to employees in responsibility for retirement saving.

According to the Department of Labor, in 1978 workers put in only 11% of total contributions to retirement savings, and corporations put in 89%, the announcement said. By 2000, the employee share had leapt to 51% and the company share had fallen to 49%.

The documentary specifically examines the story of United Airlines’ bankruptcy, which left tens of thousands of employees with reduced pensions after the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) took over responsibility of the airline’s terminated plans.

Experts say Americans with pensions or 401(k)-type plans need to accumulate at least six to ten times their annual pay before they reach retirement to maintain their standard of living, PBS said. This requires saving 15% – 18% of their salary, every year, over 30 years. Instead, according to Professor Jack VanDerhei of Temple University and the Employee Benefit Research Institute, typical retirement-age Boomers with 401(k) plans have only half that much saved up – enough to live on for about seven years.

With an average life expectancy of 17 years when they hit retirement, many middle class retirees may be living only on Social Security for almost a decade. “Most people we interviewed have no idea what it costs to replace a lifetime pension,” said FRONTLINE correspondent Hedrick Smith. “And they don’t realize that as they’re living longer, there is an impact on their nest egg.”

For more about the program and a preview, go to http://www.pbs.org/frontline/retirement .

You can view the program online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/retirement/view/