Only about half of U.S. workers have access to 401(k) accounts, but even those with access can struggle to save enough to retire.
GoFundMe campaign raises tons of cash for older Walmart employees looking to retire, but heartwarming tale of sudden windfall masks darker reality about America’s economic stability and aging population , says retirement experts.
Teresa Guilarducci, a labor economist at The New School, said of a spate of GoFundMe campaigns to help older Walmart employees: “This is not a feel-good story, it’s about a failed retirement system.” .
“Story of a stranger helping an elderly worker”
Walmart’s (WMT) fundraiser for aging workers has been popping up on GoFundMe for years, but it started popping up more frequently last summer and picked up momentum during the holidays, GoFundMe said. spokesperson told MarketWatch. Campaigns are usually started by someone who sees a baby boomer or older employee working at their local Walmart, or who has an older loved one working at the store. Appeals typically feature a photo of an employee wearing a store vest and name tag. Some describe situations where people in their 80s and her 90s are working because they need to pay medical bills. Others simply say they are trying to give peace of mind and relaxation to seniors who have worked most of their lives. (Walmart did not respond to requests for comment for this article.)
After millions of views on TikTok videos urging people to donate, several Walmart employees turned to GoFundMes, the equivalent of winning lottery tickets. Butch, 82, was able to retire after GoFundMe raised more than $166,000 of her donations. Her campaign for Carmen, another 82-year-old from Arizona, earned over $136,000 and was featured on “Good Morning America.”
Around the holidays, GoFundMe featured several fundraising efforts to help older workers retire. They weren’t all Walmart employees. Senior employees at McDonald’s, Target, Burger King and the US Postal Service also benefited from GoFundMe campaigns. A GoFundMe spokesperson said, “Our community was so inspired by stories of strangers helping elderly workers that we launched another fundraiser to help our neighbors. ‘ said. “We have seen fundraisers take off in Maryland, Florida, Texas, and across the country.The power of how one fundraiser inspires others in positive ways. is showing.”
The campaign to help workers retire has raised more than $17 billion since its launch in 2010, making it the go-to GoFundMe for those in need of help covering funeral costs, medical bills and other unexpected expenses. It represents only a small part of the activity. In the past few months, at least 20 of her GoFundMe campaigns have been launched for Walmart employees. Most fall well short of their funding goals. When I search the site, some people donate $0.
But more troubling is the real-world situation, where older low-wage workers are unlikely to have well-funded retirement accounts, experts told MarketWatch.Pew Charitable About half of U.S. workers don’t have access to a 401(k) retirement account at work, according to John Scott, director of the Trust’s retirement savings project, because they work for employers who do. Retirement benefits are not always guaranteed.
Part-time workers may not work enough hours to qualify for a 401(k), and their incomes are so low that it is almost impossible to save adequately for retirement. “Even when they’re on board, they’re not accumulating as much wealth as workers in better-paying jobs,” Scott told MarketWatch.
“We, as a nation, disagree with that math.”
Gilarducci, who studies the retirement crisis at The New School’s Retirement Equity Lab, said about 75% of American workers over the age of 70 are working because they don’t have enough money to retire, and 25% are working because they don’t have enough money to retire. are working because they want to retire. “There are 3.9 million people working in the US right now, and at age 70 and over, he thinks he needs a GoFundMe account,” Ghilarducci said. “And it’s not a practical solution to this problem.” There may be
Meanwhile, the retirement savings they built up early in life could have been used up by financial setbacks like divorce, medical disasters, or children in need of financial assistance, she adds. According to her research, the median retirement savings for workers aged 55 to 65 is $60,000. Her Vanguard report for June 2022 said her median 401(k) account balance was $35,000 overall. “We as a nation don’t agree on that math,” she said.
According to Ghilarducci, one of the positive aspects of the GoFundMe trend aimed at older workers is that it has put a spotlight on the types of jobs many older workers are engaged in, and the rare “100-year-old yoga teacher,” she said. Many older workers work as janitors, home health care assistants, or in Amazon’s warehouses and are often invisible to the general public (and anyone who wants to start her GoFundMe account on their behalf), she said. pointed out. “Some of the older workers who need it most are in low-paying jobs that we don’t see,” she said.
“I’ve been worried for a long time”
One Walmart employee seeking a GoFundMe-funded retirement is Gail Neal, who is nearly 72 and lives in White House, Tennessee. She lost her two toes to diabetes, but she climbs the ladder to the Walmart shelf where she is. Her daughter, Donna Stroud, has been working there for about 15 years, she told MarketWatch. The family recently posted a TikTok video showing Neil at work in hopes of raising more donations, and their campaign is on track to reach its $20,000 goal as of Jan. 25. and she collected $775. Neil has health insurance through her job, but she doesn’t have a 401(k) account. (According to Walmart’s Employee Benefits website, Walmart offers employees her 401(k) plan, which offers a match of up to 6% in the first year of employment and her first month. .) Her mom makes money from her job at Walmart. The company announced this week that it will raise the minimum wage in stores to $14 an hour starting in March. Neil has to pay off about $11,000 owed on her car loan, and she continues to work partially because of medical debt, Stroud said. Despite her health problems, Neil says she can’t take time off to go to doctor’s appointments because she doesn’t have enough paid time off, Stroud said. .
“I’m always worried,” Stroud said of her mother’s deteriorating health. I’m getting to the point where I have to stop working medically,” Stroud said.
“It’s not supposed to be like this.”
Some policy changes could help improve retirement conditions for older low-wage workers, and some are already underway. About a dozen states now offer state-sponsored retirement accounts that help fill the retirement savings gap, Scott said, and Savers in recently passed retirement laws said his credit was a low-wage retirement account. It should help workers accumulate more savings.
Another step to help employees build savings is for companies to offer “safe harbor” 401(k) plans. This basically means that the company will automatically contribute to the employee’s retirement account. The Workforce & Organizational Research Center is a social enterprise working to improve the quality of low-wage jobs and company performance. These plans are more expensive for companies to offer, but they serve the company’s bottom line in the long run. Such useful benefits increase employee satisfaction and lead to lower turnover, says Frank-Miller.
She called for fundraising to help older workers retire, but said it was “incredibly sad.” , that’s not the society we want to live in. ”
– Leslie Albrecht
(Closed) Dow Jones Newswire
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