Downhill from Here: Retirement Insecurity in the Age of Inequality
A sharp examination of the looming financial catastrophe of retirement in America.
As millions of Baby Boomers reach their golden years, the state of retirement in America is little short of a disaster. Nearly half the households with people aged 55 and older have no retirement savings at all. The real estate crash wiped out much of the home equity that millions were counting on to support their retirement. And the typical Social Security check covers less than 40% of pre-retirement wages--a number projected to drop to under 28% within two decades. Old-age poverty, a problem we thought was solved by the New Deal, is poised for a resurgence.
With dramatic statistics and vivid portraits, acclaimed sociologist Katherine S. Newman shows that the American retirement crisis touches us all, cutting across class lines and generational divides. White-collar managers have seen retirement benefits vanish; Teamsters have had their pensions cut in half; bankrupt cities like Detroit have walked away from their commitments to municipal workers. And for Generation X, the prospects are even worse: a fifth of them expect to never be able to retire. Only the vaunted "one percent" can face retirement without fear.
Other countries are confronting similar demographic challenges, yet they have not abandoned their social contract with seniors. Downhill From Here makes it clear that America, too, can--and must--do better.
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About the Author
"With urgency and humanity, Katherine Newman paints a dire picture of retirement in communities across the United States, and challenges us to fix it. This book is a wake-up call for this country, and a clarion call for all of us to take action."
--Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation
"With great skill and compelling evidence, Katherine Newman explains why most of the boomer generation doesn't have enough money to retire on while CEOs and others at the top are socking away a fortune. And she offers some practical solutions. Thoughtful, beautifully written, and urgent."
--Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and author of The Common Good
"Newman combines panoramic thinking about America with the most precise details about towns and companies. She shows us a country disregarding the needs of many of its citizens. As one of her subjects puts it, 'I can't go back to work. If I do, I'll end up dead.' After reading this book, you will never be able to unsee this growing social tragedy."
--Alissa Quart, author of Squeezed
"Newman's careful account of lost pensions blows past illusions that mainstream suggestions for fixing the retirement crisis - nudging people to save more and work for longer - have any bearing in reality. Vivid interviews with all types of workers point to swift federal action to expand Social Security, restore lost pensions, and provide retirement accounts for all Americans."
--Teresa Ghilarducci, coauthor of Rescuing Retirement
"Katherine Newman tells searing stories of retirement insecurity, and makes clear why more than three-quarters of Americans fear retirement more than death. Happily, she also proposes practical solutions. Thanks to Newman's meticulous research and compelling recommendations, we can make this a better country for our seniors and our families."
--Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, director of retirement security at the Economic Policy Institute
"This book is urgently needed to awake citizens of all generations to the cruel consequences of inequality ravaging our already fragile social contract. And it offers wise and feasible reform ideas. America can do better; its workers deserve better."
--Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of The Nation
"Downhill from Here describes the devastating impact on the lives of people when pensions fail, and sees real limits in asking those with low wages to save on their own. This book clearly shows how our retirement system, which works fine for some, fails for far too many."
--Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research and coauthor of Falling Short
"This well-written and carefully researched book is just what is needed to spur an urgent debate on how to fix the long-overlooked shortcomings of our nation's retirement programs."
--Karen Ferguson, director of the Pension Rights Center