By Sandy K. Johnson

Research findings on the workforce and retirement are not one-size-fits-all.

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings (bio), president of the nonprofit Center for Global Policy Solutions, challenged reporters to dig into the data to look at racial disparities that define work, aging and retirement.

“It’s a tale of two tales,” she told journalists at a National Press Foundation fellowship on working longer. In general, people are living longer and working longer – but not so for people of color.

  • Almost half (45 percent) of working American households have no retirement account savings of any kind. That’s 38 million working age households, disproportionately minority.
  • Minority workers are significantly less likely to have access to or participate in employer-sponsored retirement savings plans.
  • The share of white households with no financial assets is 14 percent; among blacks, it is 38 percent, and among Hispanics it is 35 percent.

Workers at the bottom of the income scale are “running in place,” Rockeymoore Cummings said. Their wages are stagnant while costs increase. “They’re never catching up or getting ahead,” she said.

To them, retiring at 62 when they become eligible for Social Security looks like a good plan. “Social Security becomes their only option,” she said.

But Social Security “is not a lavish benefit,” which means minorities and low-income people are trapped into living on a low fixed income.