Taking Control Of His Future

A CBS News poll has found that more than half of Americans now believe Social Security will not be there for them when they retire. Even so, Americans are spending more and saving less.

Sean O'Connor, an employee at a small company, decided to take his future into his own hands, reports CBS News Economics Correspondent Ray Brady.

When his father-in-law retired from Leonard Kunkin Co., the company where Sean works, Sean got a sneak preview of what his own pension might look like, and he didn't like what he saw: a pension of just $800 a month.

"I said to myself, 'You know, this isn't going to be enough for me. Looking ahead, it just isn't going to be enough for me to retire on," O'Connor said. "I didn't know if Social Security would be there or not."

O'Connor, age 41 and the father of three, decided he needed to find a way to beef up his retirement income.

"My goal was, hopefully, to convince the company to give us a 40l(K) plan," O'Connor said. But first, he had to convince the company's president, Matt Kunkin.

"I really didn't know what a 40l(K) was," Kunkin said.

But once O'Connor got the go-ahead, he led efforts to set up a plan.

"I wanted to go with the large companies, because a lot of guys here are blue-collar guys and not really investing in the market. So I wanted to make sure it was a Merrill Lynch, a Vanguard, a T. Rowe Price -- names that would be commonplace to them," O'Connor said.

Ninety percent of the company's 85 employees have enrolled in the plan, which offered six mutual funds. Everyone liked it, even the boss.

"I was persuaded. After looking at this, I said, this is definitely a good thing," said Kunkin.

With Social Security waning, Americans are living longer and saving less. So, workers increasingly are focusing on their 40l(K)s to get them through retirement.

Thanks to the bull market, the average worker's 401(K) now has $40,000 in it. That may seem like a lot of money, but it's roughly one year's income for a group that's likely to live more than 20 years after leaving work.

O'Connor is not alone. At the 40l(K) Forum, which provides 40l(K) advice on the phone and on the Internet to some l00,000 planholders each month, company president Steve Deschenes said many workers want more flexibility in their plan.

They're looking for ways to improve it, to add funds, to add balances, to add Internet-based investments, whatever it is that would help them manage their own investments more effectively," Deschenes said.

O'Connor has it all figured out. With his $826-a-month pension, if he makes just 10 percent a year on his 40l(K), he'll be able to take $1,000 a month out of it at retirement. But he has one regret: that he didn't start saving earlier.

Experts stress it's never too late - or too early - to save for rtirement. The real regrets come from not saving at all.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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