Why retirement funds are shrinking; The Graying of America: Retirement and Why You Can't Afford It, by James Jorgensen. New York: The Dial Press. $10.95.
It's a disturbing problem that James Jorgensen takes up in "The Graying of America," and one that each of us will face (although we probably won't take it seriously, as he points out, until we're 60). In brief, this is it:
* Unless you have thoroughly researched your company's pension plan, you'll probably be unpleasantly surprised at how little it pays you on retirement.
* Your company's pension fund may not have enough money to pay all its promised benefits; and while the company is obliged to make up the difference, that difference may one day be too big to make up.
* Saving money for your retirement is just about hopeless, because if you don't have a lot of money to put away it's nearly impossible to get a decent rate of interest.
* Social security is a gamble, because the elderly population is growing faster than the young population (that's the graying of America), so payments from social security are growing faster than contributions to it.
* No matter what your source of retirement income, inflation at current rates will make short work of it in a few years.
These are disheartening facts of vital interest to nearly everyone. A solid, dispassionate presentation of them would make riveting reading. So it's a mystery why James Jorgensen, a California insurance underwriter, chose the florid, rhetorical style that makes much of this book sound like Radio Moscow. Talk of "tyrannical pension fund managers" and "greedy bosses" adds nothing to our understanding of the problem, although it makes us wonder whether Jorgensen is being square with us in the rest of the book. The simple facts of the retirement problem are alarming enough; we don't need the author informing us of our alarm at every turn ("A whopping interest rate of 22 percent. That's what it would take, to your utter surprise").