Spokane Journal of Business

Study suggests disconnect between goals, preparedness

Respondents expect to be happy in retirement, but appear to be ill-prepared

  • Print Article

More than three-fourths of Americans nearing retirement expect to be extremely happy after they leave the workforce, a survey suggests. And why not? They are looking forward to spending unrestricted time with family, traveling, and pursuing personal hobbies and goals.

But it appears many may be financially ill-prepared to participate in these activities as much as they'd like to.

Only 46 percent of Americans ages 50 to 70 who participated in the Retirement Check-In survey released earlier this year by Ameriprise Financial Inc., of Minneapolis. said they are extremely or very confident they'll be able to afford essential expenses like housing, utilities, and medical costs in retirement. Even fewer, 38 percent, said the same about their confidence in affording extras like traveling and pursuing hobbies.

There is also a significant group—38 percent of respondents—who might not have an accurate understanding of what those costs will be, since they admitted they haven't yet estimated their annual expenses for retirement. Adding to those worrisome numbers is the fact that many aren't taking basic financial steps that experts recommend to feel financially confident in retirement.

"There seems to be a significant disconnect between the expectations that Americans have for their lifestyle in retirement and the financial steps they're taking—or not taking—to make those expectations a reality," says Suzanna de Baca, vice president of wealth strategies at Ameriprise Financial. "The good news is there are several things that most people are doing right, and there are steps that everyone can take to help build their financial readiness for retirement."

On the surface, it appears that Americans nearing retirement are feeling pretty good about leaving the workforce. Seven in 10 survey respondents said they feel in control of their financial future, and nearly nine in 10 said they feel comfortable navigating all of the resources available about retirement preparation. Three-quarters of survey participants even said that their dream retirement includes really nice vacations.

However, since slightly more than half of respondents said they're only moderately confident or not confident about their ability to afford the essentials in retirement, it seems that some of them may be experiencing a sense of complacency when it comes to financial preparation for this milestone. Fewer than two-thirds asserted that they've done everything they can to prepare, while nearly three out of five said they could save more than what they're putting away now.

The apparent disconnect also was emphasized when respondents were asked if they feel afraid that they aren't saving enough—only one in three agreed.

While it's encouraging that most Americans feel unafraid and in control of their finances, the number of those who said they feel unsure about whether they can afford what they need and want in retirement is troubling, Ameriprise said.

Adding to the contradictions between emotional assurance and actual financial preparedness is that Americans really haven't saved as much as they think they will need, despite the fact that so many believe they could save more or take extra steps to prepare. The data showed that those Americans between the ages of 50 and 70 believe they need to add about $250,000 to their nest egg to retire comfortably.

On average, respondents said they think they will need close to $1 million for a comfortable retirement, but their current investable assets are just under $700,000, including their employer-sponsored plans. Perhaps even more concerning is that one in four respondents reported they have less than $250,000 total saved for retirement.

But Americans are thinking about how they might make up the difference. Nearly half of respondents said they expect to use their home equity to help fund their retirement, a surprising statistic considering that housing values remain well below pre-recession levels in many parts of the country. Doing so may be even more difficult for the 37 percent of homeowners who said they aren't on track to pay off their mortgage before they retire.

Though most Americans don't include punching the clock as part of their ideal retirement, a surprising 68 percent of the soon-to-be retirees who were surveyed said they plan to work at least part time after they officially leave the workforce. Doing more meaningful work for pleasure or to help supplement retirement income might be part of many Americans' plans, but what some also fail to consider is that an unexpected illness or disability can impair a person's ability to work as long as they wish.

Health and finances are two of the biggest challenges that come with aging. When asked whether they worry more about their health or their finances in retirement, half of respondents admitted they are more concerned about their health, while only one-third answered with the latter. But those who answered "both" might be on to something—financial and physical health often impact one another.

It also appears that a significant number of Americans might not be familiar with what their medical costs might be in retirement. More than half of respondents admitted they haven't researched what Medicare covers, and 69 percent acknowledged that they haven't purchased long-term care insurance. Though future medical expenses can be challenging to predict or calculate, these actions can help alleviate financial stress should individuals encounter significant medical costs as they age, Ameriprise asserts.

What can Americans do so that their emotions, confidence, and retirement expectations all align? The answer, the company says, is to continue taking steps to prepare.

"The study reveals several action steps that those who feel the most confident about affording essential expenses in retirement have taken, including having a written financial plan, factoring inflation into their retirement plans, and calculating how much income their assets will produce in retirement," de Baca says. "These are actions anybody can take, even if they are maxing out savings or cannot afford to simply save more."

Ameriprise Financial created theRetirement Check-In survey by using survey responses from 1,000 employed Americans ages 50 to 70. All respondents have investable assets of at least $100,000—including employer retirement plans, but not real estate—and are planning to retire at some point. The survey was commissioned by Ameriprise and conducted via telephone interviews, and the margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

  • Business Wire

  • Follow RSS feed for Business Wire

Read More

Sign up for our E-mail updates

including the
Morning Edition

Join our list