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Even the wealthy can't count on their retirement years being golden

July 13, 2010 |  4:43 pm

Running out of money in retirement isn’t just for the middle class anymore.

Even many wealthy people are at risk of depleting their savings in what are supposed to be their golden years, according to a study released Tuesday.

Among the wealthiest 25% of Americans, 13% are in danger of churning through their savings within 20 years of retirement, according to the study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Among the next wealthiest quartile, 29% may not have enough to pay for healthcare and other basic expenses.

Of course, the wealthy still are better off than everyone else.

Among the poorest 25% of Americans, 41% may run out of money within a decade of retirement, and 57% could come up short within 20 years, according to the study.

The report, which was based on an analysis of 24 million participants in 401(k) plans, echoes the downbeat tone in scores of previous retirement studies.

That’s shown most clearly when retirement readiness is measured by age rather than wealth.

Among baby boomers between the ages of 56 to 62 – so-called early boomers – a full 47.2% are at risk of depleting their savings, according to the study. The odds are only slightly better for late boomers, those ages 46 to 55. They have a 43.7% chance of going through their money.

On the bright side, the retirement picture has brightened since 2003, the last time the nonprofit group did a similar analysis.

At that time, more than 59% of early boomers and almost 55% of late boomers were unprepared for retirement. The improvement is due to the growth of 401(k) improvements such as automatic enrollment.

That’s what passes for good news in the retirement game these days.

-- Walter Hamilton