Make us your home page
Instagram | Tampa Bay Times

PolitiFact: Fact-checking Bernie Sanders on retirement savings

Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to a crowd of over 8000 at the Expo Center at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Tuesday evening, March 10, 2016 in Tampa.


Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to a crowd of over 8000 at the Expo Center at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Tuesday evening, March 10, 2016 in Tampa.

The statement

Fifty percent of workers ages 55 to 64 have "zero" money "in the bank as they enter retirement." Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, in Dec. 12 interview

The ruling

At a postelection town hall meeting in Kenosha, Wis., 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders opined on why Republican Donald Trump is headed for the Oval Office and not the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

"One of the arguments as to why Trump won is the belief that most of — or many of — his supporters are sexist or are racist or are homophobes. I happen not to believe that's the case," Sanders said at the meeting, which was broadcast on MSNBC.

"I think what he did do is, he said, 'You know what, there is a lot of pain in this country; people are scared and people are worried.' One example: Right now, 50 percent of older workers, 55 to 64 — you know how much money they have in the bank, as they enter retirement? Who wants to guess?

"Zero!" the Vermont senator, who is an independent, exclaimed. "What do you think? People are scared to death of retirement."

Are half of Americans approaching retirement with nothing in the bank?

To support Sanders' statement, his campaign cited a May 2015 report on the financial status of retirees and workers approaching retirement from a gold-standard source, the nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Sanders had requested it in his role as ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security.

The report used data from the latest triennial Survey of Consumer Finances done by the Federal Reserve Board, in 2013. It is the premier survey of wealth in the United States, according to Wellesley College economics professor Courtney Coile, who is the associate director of the Retirement Research Center at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The GAO found that 52 percent of households age 55 and over have no money in what the report defined as retirement savings — an Individual Retirement Account or a defined-contribution plan, such as a 401(k).

But that group includes people who are well into retirement.

The situation is somewhat less dire for the group that Sanders cited at the town hall, those ages 55 to 64. The report found that 41 percent of the people in that group have no money in defined-contribution plans or IRAs.

There's another point of clarification, however. The report did not consider in that statistic other savings that the 55-to-64 age group have.

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College ran those numbers for us, using the same Federal Reserve survey data, although it expressed the statistic a little differently.

The center found that 38.5 percent of Americans ages 55 to 64 do not have a retirement account such as an IRA, traditional pension or 401(k), but nevertheless have some savings. With that group, the median amount of their savings is $1,000 — in other words, half of them have savings of more than $1,000 and half have less.

So, it's not as though those people have "zero" in the bank, although many don't have savings that would last them very long in retirement.

For a statement that is partially accurate but leaves out important details, our rating is Half True.

Tom Kertscher, PolitiFact Wisconsin Read more rulings at

PolitiFact: Fact-checking Bernie Sanders on retirement savings 12/29/16 [Last modified: Friday, December 30, 2016 3:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals


    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]
  3. Pinellas licensing board loses support for staying independent

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER –– The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board on Monday lost its strongest supporter for staying independent.

    State Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican running for governor, said Monday that he will no longer support any legislation to keep the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board independent. This photo was taken in August. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  4. Triad Retail Media names Sherry Smith as CEO


    ST. PETERSBURG — Triad Retail Media, a St. Petersburg-based digital ads company, said CEO Roger Berdusco is "leaving the company to pursue new opportunities" and a member of the executive team, Sherry Smith, is taking over.

    Sherry Smith is taking over as CEO at Triad Retail Media, the company announced Monday. | [Courtesy of Triad Retail Media]
  5. Two new condo projects for same street in downtown St. Pete

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — It lacks the panache and name recognition of Beach Drive, but 4th Avenue N in downtown St. Petersburg is becoming a condo row in its own right.

    Bezu, a condo project planned at 100 4th Ave. N in downtown St. Petersburg, will have 24 units including a three-level penthouse with infinity pool.
[Courtesy of Clear ph Design]