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What’s the Story? Part 3

12/23/2019
By Jack Towarnicky

The Retirement “Crisis”- What Me, Worry?

Are those claiming a looming retirement “crisis” “worrywarts,1” -or those who worry needlessly, often without justifiable reasons; “a person who is inclined to worry unduly,” “one who worries excessively and needlessly,” “an inveterate worrier, one who frets unnecessarily?”

Yes, certainly, since World War II, there have been tens of millions of American workers who reached retirement age financially unprepared. We can debate the reasons – the economy, lack of access to an employer-sponsored pension or retirement savings plan, termination of the employer-sponsored plan, bad luck, illness, disability, etc.

Many assert current and future retirees face a worsening situation, a future crisis. I have written extensively about this issue.2 Empower significantly improved upon my past musings with a white paper titled: “The Over-Stated Retirement Crisis: An ever-improving retirement system is helping Americans be more prepared for retirement.”3 The data shows that, compared to prior generations, Baby Boomers, as a group, are arriving at retirement ages much better prepared.

However, the fact that tens of millions of Americans are better prepared than prior generations of workers doesn’t mean that our future won’t have anyone who is financially unprepared when they reach retirement ages.4 As in the past, it will include those who had periods of involuntary unemployment, disability, low wages, chronic illness. We have designed our social insurance system (Medicare, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid (dual eligible), etc.) to provide appropriate assistance.

However, there is no reason for others to arrive at retirement ages unprepared.5

So, should you worry? Probably not; it won’t help. There is no need to be a worrywart!

Who knew that nearly 100 years ago J. R. Williams, in Dell Comics, created a comic book character named “Worry Wart”?6 And who knew that Worry Wart didn’t worry? This tyke was not a worrier at all – he was a nuisance, an annoyance. He caused others to worry. And, his “worrywart” could have prompted a comic book character of my childhood years – Alfred E. Neuman.

Neuman was inspired by this 1950’s postcard from a Texas auto parts store. No one knows the inspiration for the postcard. Neuman became Mad Magazine’s “Cover Guy.” "It was a face that didn't have a care in the world, except mischief."7 In addition to “What Me Worry?”, for the next seven decades, Neuman rivaled Yogi Berra in offering American teens (and adults) sage advice:

  • The trouble with learning from experience is that you get the test before the lesson. (10/1989)
  • It's a good idea to save your money. One day, it might be worth something again. (07/1993)
  • You can be on the right track and still get hit by a train. (08/1995)

Hakuna matata. Don’t worry, be prepared.


1Merrill Perlman, How We Got the Term Worrywart, Columbia Journalism Review, 3/12/18, Accessed 11/3/19 at: https://www.cjr.org/language_corner/worrywart.php
2J. Towarnicky, What’s the Story? Part 1, 12/19/19, Accessed 11/1/19 at: https://www.psca.org/blog_jack_2018_58 The Sky is Not Falling on Older Americans, 8/27/18, Accessed 11/1/19 at: https://www.psca.org/blog_jack_2018_40
3Empower Institute Explores View of a Retirement System in ‘Crisis’: Analysis of research and data shows today’s working Americans will likely have more money in retirement than previous generations. 10/31/19. Accessed 11/1/19 at: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20191031005172/en/Empower-Institute-Explores-View-Retirement-System-%E2%80%98Crisis%E2%80%99
4Retirement in America – A Life Of Poverty? 6/29/18, Accessed 11/1/19 at: https://www.psca.org/blog_jack_2018_32
5J. Towarnicky, DC Plans: Can Everyone Win? 10/20/17, Accessed 11/3/19 at: https://www.psca.org/blog_jack_2017_11
6Merrill Perlman, How We Got the Term Worrywart, Columbia Journalism Review, 3/12/18, Accessed 11/3/19 at: https://www.cjr.org/language_corner/worrywart.php
7Harvey Kurtzman, Alfred E. Neuman, Wikipedia, Accessed 11/1/19 at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_E._Neuman

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