The declining middle class in the United States is a popular talking point these days and is a pressing issue in the presidential campaign. But while the state of middle Americans presents immediate concerns, it also will have a large impact on the future of the country.
That is one of the conclusions that can be gleaned from a recent report by Pew Charitable Trusts. Examining 104 metropolitan areas, the study found a wide disparity in access to retirement plans across the country. As more and more companies have abandoned defined pension plans, many Americans have seen a reduction in their financial security.
The caustic view would be to consider this simply a bad break for employees who do not have the skills or the wherewithal to seek more lucrative employment. But the fact is that the situation will affect all Americans in the future.
For many workers, the traditional pension has largely been replaced by 401(k) plans that include contributions from employees and employers. But the Pew research found that 40 percent of full-time workers have access to neither form of retirement savings.
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Lawmakers in Washington were wise last year not to rest on the state’s laurels. The Legislature approved creation of a marketplace in which small employers and the self-employed — people often left in the cold when it comes to long-term savings — can shop for retirement plans.
Americans long have labored under the impression that a lifetime of long and honest work will result in a secure present for their families and a secure future for themselves. Maintaining that reality must become a priority for policymakers.