Coloradans have reason to worry about retirement savings, new report finds

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Photo: Retirement savings iStockJanneli Miller is worried about having enough money for retirement.

"I am 59 years old and have absolutely no retirement savings at all," Miller says.

Miller is an adjunct professor and has taught at various public and private institutions over the years. She’s just enrolled in a retirement plan with her new employer, Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., but she doesn’t have retirement plans from her previous jobs to fall back on. And, in 2008 when the stock market fell, she lost much of the little money she had saved.

"What I consider to be my retirement right now is I do own a home," she says. "And I pretty much figure that that’s my retirement."

Miller is not alone in facing serious questions about how she’ll live comfortably in retirement. The Bell Policy Center, a nonprofit research group based in Denver that identifies itself as "progressive," has a new study out. It finds that nearly 1 million Coloradans of prime working age (25-64) employed in the private sector don’t have retirement plans through their employers.

In most cases, it’s because their employers don’t offer plans. According to the study, Retirement at Risk, 45 percent of private-sector employees in prime working age work for an employer that doesn’t offer retirement savings plans and that number has been rising. Rich Jones, director of policy research at the Bell Policy Center, says such plans have long been an important part of the retirement puzzle for most people. As their slow disappearance continues, he says, it will spell big trouble for Coloradans in the future.

Low-income workers are disproportionately affected. According to the study, 74 percent of workers who earn less than $21,000 annually have no workplace retirement plan. That helps perpetuate a cycle of financial insecurity, Jones says. When families are able to get ahead, it's often because one generation helps the next by passing on assets or paying for college.