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We’re facing down a retirement crisis in this country.

As of 2013, the mean retirement savings of all working-age families was just over $95,000, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). Broken down by age group, the average 60+ year old had about $163,000 in total savings (notably down from $211,000 before the financial crisis) while those under 40 barely peaked above $40,000. Not terrible, but those numbers only reflect those families who have more than $0 in savings. Since super savers can throw off the average, median savings, or those at the 50th percentile, can be more illustrative.

That number is scary: For all working-age families in the U.S., the median amount of retirement savings is just $5,000.

It takes an account worth $1 million or more to fund 30 years of retirement at a rate of $40,000 per year.

This isn’t just impacting soon-to-be retirees, but even the younger generations. According to a new report from TD Ameritrade nearly 40% of Generation X, of which I am a part, don’t expect to be able to afford to retire at all. Half are “worried about running out of money” once they leave the workforce, 43% say “they are behind” in their savings and 17% admit that they “aren’t saving or investing for anything.”

Only a third expect to be “very secure” in retirement — vs. nearly half of Baby Boomers.

“Gen Xers were derailed by three market downturns — the 1987 stock market crash, the 2000 tech stock meltdown and the 2008 financial crisis. They also were the “first 401(k) generation,” which transferred the responsibility to fund retirement from employers to workers. This generation was also more likely to have grown up in a family split by divorce and as latch-key kids, two factors TD Ameritrade says lead to less financial security as adults.”

That’s the challenge.

The problem is that too many Gen Xers and others are looking at the math behind their retirement wrong. This is a long-term project, not a savings account, and so its important to think beyond the usual options.

Illiquidity can provide a return advantage… if a saver can wait.

But waiting is what retirement saving is all about. Someone in their 40s or 50s who knows they are short on their retirement savings, has a good income and has at least 15 years until retirement has options to make up that shortfall, and illiquid, alternative investments are just one idea to access those needed returns, no matter what the stock market does.

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