If older workers are wondering why it’s so hard to save for retirement—particularly as they age—the answer may lie at least partly in their paychecks.

The blog for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College pointed out a study that tracked the inflation-adjusted earnings of some 5 million workers over their lifetimes. The study, from the Michigan Retirement Research Center at the University of Michigan, not only found that “earnings risk varies significantly across the population,” but uncovered four trends within that risk that have to be disturbing for almost anyone who ever wants to retire.

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