Americans unprepared and fearful of retirement

By Ruthie Ackerman
May 23, 2011
What are most Americans planning to do when they retire? The reality is that many don't have a plan, or their plan is to never retire, which may not be an option if they fall ill or can't work for some reason.

According to the 12th annual survey from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies released on Tuesday, a substantial number of Americans are unprepared for retirement and many do not have a backup plan if they are forced into retirement earlier than planned.

The survey, which polled 4,080 American workers, found that many Americans are planning to not retire or to work well past age 65. Forty percent of respondents expect to work longer and retire at an older age, a number that has increased since the recession began. Thirty-nine percent of American workers plan to retire after age 70 or don't plan to retire at all, and 54% of workers plan to work in retirement. Why? Because they have to.

Yet many do not have a backup plan if circumstances force them into retirement. While many workers may plan to work past the traditional retirement age or never retire, unforeseen circumstances could force them into retirement.

Seventy percent of respondents reported they could work until age 65 and still not have enough money saved to meet their retirement needs. Even those currently in their twenties and thirties feel they won't have enough saved for retirement even if they work until age 65, with 69% of those in their twenties and 72% of those in their thirties feeling this way.

Meanwhile, 80% of those with a household income of less than $50,000 agree, 74% of those with a household income between $50,000 and $100,000 agree, and, 59% of those with a household income over $100,000 agree.

"With all of life's uncertainties, planning not to retire is simply not a viable retirement strategy," says Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, in a press release. "Planning to work past age 65 is an important opportunity to continue earning income, save more, and help to alleviate a retirement savings shortfall; however, it's important that workers be proactive in setting a retirement savings goal, saving and investing for retirement, and having a backup plan if they are forced to retire sooner than expected."

Many workers may even have to support others in retirement, yet a large number do not have a backup plan in place, and 44% of American workers do not have a strategy to reach their retirement goals.

"In today's society, it's more important than ever for workers to take personal responsibility for achieving a financially secure retirement. Our research highlights the risk American workers are taking by not having a backup plan in place in the event they are forced to retire sooner than expected," says Collinson. "It is so vital that everyone have a firm grasp of their retirement saving and planning options, and have a contingency plan if they have to retire sooner than planned or are faced with a health issue that could quickly erode their savings."

Of those who do have a strategy, only half have factored in health care costs, one-fifth have factored in long-term care insurance, and only 57% have factored in Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Meanwhile, Americans estimate their median needs in retirement at $600,000, yet only 30% currently have $100,000 or more saved, leading to anxiety. Respondents' biggest fears include "outliving my savings and investments" and "not being able to meet the basic financial needs of my family."

Ruthie Ackerman writes for Financial Planning, a SourceMedia publication.

This article originally appeared in Employee Benefit News, a SourceMedia publication.
2011 Employee Benefit News and SourceMedia, Inc.