Yesterday I attended a hearing held by the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Called Stories from the Kitchen Table: How Middle Class Families are Struggling to Make Ends Meet, the hearing focused on the all-too-familiar challenges that many of America’s middle class families are facing due to the economic downturn.
I was particularly struck by the testimony of Amanda Greubel, a social worker, wife, and mother from Iowa, whose family was hit hard when her hours at work were cut back, resulting in an annual loss of $10,000 in income. Amanda described her family’s financial picture and noted that saving for retirement was “not even on the radar” for her family. Fortunately, as state employees, she and her husband, a band director for a local high school, will receive pensions when they retire.
Also compelling was the statement of Susan M. Sipprelle of the Over 50 and Out of Work Project. Susan’s testimony included a video featuring people who have lost their jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. Many of the individuals who told their stories in the video have had to dip into their retirement savings to meet their everyday expenses like mortgage payments, groceries, and health care costs.
When families can’t even meet their basic needs, how are they going to save for retirement?
In his testimony, economist Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities highlighted the important role Social Security plays in the lives of millions of Americans. For people age 65 and older, Social Security accounts for two-thirds of their income. Without this vital program, even more of America’s elderly would be plunged into poverty.
Yesterday’s hearing underscores the need for a system that, along with Social Security, will provide a universal, secure, and adequate retirement for future retirees. Sounds like Retirement USA fits the bill.