Beth LindleyMy name is Beth Lindley and I am an employee of the California Department of Health Care Services. I am here today to share with you how the growing retirement security crisis has affected my family.
People talk about the looming retirement crisis as if it’s an abstract thing. I live with it every day. I see how it will hurt generations of my family.
Just two generations ago, retirement planning included three elements which, taken together, allowed people who worked all their lives a dignified retirement: Stable jobs with defined benefit pensions, enough earnings to set aside personal savings, and Social Security. Each provided a leg of a sturdy stool.
Now, defined benefit pensions are a rarity. Now, workers’ pay and savings are inadequate and vulnerable to an economy plagued by bubbles. Now, Social Security is under attack as a so-called “failed entitlement program” instead of a fixable program that workers pay into for their retirement. Now, none of my children – or any of their peers – is confident it will be around for them when they retire, or provide them the same level of benefit that their parents’ generations received. The stool has been yanked out from under them.
My five children and stepchildren are all over 30 years of age. Just one has a retirement plan. After 23 years of service, Bank of America laid off my step-son for the 3rd time. Between his small pension and 401K, he has saved just $55 thousand. One daughter, working in a Skilled Nursing Facility in another state, is unable to pay her massive student loan debt, let alone set aside savings for retirement. Two others have worked in the food service industry for 16 and 11 years, respectively – where no retirement benefits are available.
Times are still hard for working people in our country. Two of my daughters – each with a small child of their own – have moved back in with me and my disabled husband. One is on maternity leave from her waitressing job, and the other is working at a Veteran’s clinic. They can barely save enough to get back on their feet and provide for their children – let alone plan for retirement.
My state salary, my CalPERS pension, and my supplemental 401(K) alone are the retirement plan for 3 generations of my family. Even these assets are not as secure as they once were. I lost $20 thousand in salary due to furloughs. The value of my 401K is just half of what is should be, due to the Great Recession of 2008. Yet, most families I know are not as secure as we are. They don’t have a grandmother’s pension to rely on.
My family’s story is sadly all too typical. There is a whole generation of working Americans that is completely shut out of the American dream – the promise that your hard work will pay off – that if you if you take responsibility, you can retire and spend your golden years with your family, and that you can leave the next generation better off than the generation that came before it. My children expect to work until they die.
This is why we need Secure Choice. Secure Choice alone is unlikely to fix the looming retirement crisis in America. But it represents incredibly important progress towards a sane, compassionate solution. Secure Choice would provide hope and some security for the futures of millions of families like mine.