18 scary retirement statisticsArticle added by Kristen Beckman on December 8, 2016
Kristen Beckman

Kristen Beckman

Centennial, CO

Joined: March 14, 2016

These 18 statistics illustrate how frightened Americans are about their retirement readiness. (Photo: iStock)

Americans don't seem too confident about the state of their financial readiness for retirement, if recent research and surveys are any indication.

From millennials who are too busy paying off college debt to even think about saving for retirement, to baby boomers who are hitting retirement age with nothing saved at all, the statistics paint an alarming picture. Add to that compounding factors, such as divorce and skyrocketing health care costs, and the retirement picture is muddied even further for many Americans.

What's more, longevity is increasing. Great news, right? Sure, but now everyone will have even more time on their hands to worry about how they are going to fund their lengthening retirement.

Related: 9 retirement moves other countries get right

Fortunately, many of these scary statistics also come with sound advice about how to plan for and mitigate their impact.

Read on to learn more about these 18 scary retirement statistics:

1. People could routinely live past 100, but they might not want to

Science is creating a future in which human beings could routinely live past 100 years old in relative health. But do people really want that?

Research from the Pew Research Center regarding attitudes about life extension and human enhancements show that many U.S. adults aren’t willing to embrace these possibilities, for themselves or for society as a whole.

Fifty-six percent of study respondents said they would not want to live at least 120 years. Two-thirds of adults said they would be against having a brain chip implant that could help improve their cognitive abilities, and a similar number were against the idea of using synthetic blood to augment their physical abilities.

Respondents cited concerns with artificially extending life expectancy, such as social inequality where only the rich would have access to life-extending enhancements. Two-thirds of respondents also worried about the implications of using such scientific enhancements before their full impact is understood.

The ideal lifespan is between 79 and 100 years old, 69 percent of respondents said.

2. Women are more financially fragile than they used to be

Women in their 50s are more financially fragile than they were just a decade ago, according to research from the George Washington University Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center. This trend has led to women in their 50s delaying retirement because of higher levels of debt, including educational debt, and higher rates of life-planning disruption due to divorce and widowhood.

“There are many real and complicated factors contributing to 50-something women’s sense of financial insecurity today. No matter the cause, however, it is time for the financial services industry to zero in on how it is failing women in general and contributing to the financial insecurity of women in this age group in particular,” said Carla Dearing, CEO of SUM180, an online financial planning service.

Among the report’s findings are that overall debt for women has doubled in their 50s since the early 1990s, while the percentage of 50-something women with less than $25,000 in savings has also doubled. In addition, women in their 50s are more likely to have mortgage debt totaling more than half the value of their homes.

These findings are additionally substantiated by the results of a recent survey of American workers by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. This study reveals that 46 percent of women are either "not too confident" or "not at all confident" in their ability to retire with a comfortable lifestyle, compared with 36 percent of men; only 12 percent of women are "very confident" in their ability to fully retire with a comfortable lifestyle.

3. Social Security is not keeping pace with real cost of living increases

The rising cost of living is a major concern for most Americans, and news of Social Security's paltry 0.3 percent COLA raise in 2017 — amounting to a $5 increase — won't do much to calm those worries.

According to a recent study from Allianz Life, fears about the rising cost of living are having a real impact on Americans' retirement planning. Nearly half of Americans (47 percent) reported being either “very concerned” (36 percent) or “terrified” (11 percent) that the rising cost of living will affect their retirement plan, and 53 percent report they would feel either “very worried” (38 percent) or “panicked” (15 percent) about paying for expenses if their income was frozen and they never received an increase in annual salary.

Perhaps more concerning, most people don't have a real plan to deal with inflation, as the majority said they would adjust by simply "living more modestly." That sounds easy but may be more difficult than they think and leave them looking for other solutions, said Allianz.

4. Gen X is on deck, and they are nervous

We don't tend to hear a whole lot about Gen X, but once baby boomers get done retiring, Gen X is up. And they are just as worried about their retirement readiness as everyone else.

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Gen Xers are kept up at night thinking about financing their retirement, and 1 in 3 are worried they're not earning enough money to be able to invest for the future, according to a survey by American Funds, a family of mutual funds from Capital Group.

"After experiencing the dot-com bust, the global financial crisis and the housing collapse, as well as stagnant wage growth during their formative adult years, Gen Xers — or Generation AnXious — are wary about their financial future," said Heather Lord, senior vice president and head of strategy and innovation at Capital Group. "Perhaps because of these concerns, Gen Xers long to do better than the average market and say actively managed funds can help them reach these goals."

5. Caregivers are facing a retirement crisis

A survey of families with children with special needs found that a large majority (82 percent) of caregivers are concerned that they do not have enough financial resources to last their disabled relative's entire lifetime. Just as alarming, because of the time and cost required for caring for those with special needs, 30 percent of caregivers are not saving at all for their own retirement.

These findings are part of the new Special Needs Caregiver Survey from the American College of Financial Services, which sought to better understand the challenges that caregivers of special needs children and young adults face managing their day-to-day and long-term finances, as well as explore possible solutions that may help these households prepare for their dependent relative's financial futures.

"Caring for a child with special needs is a full time job that requires all of your emotional and physical energy, which is why it makes sense that planning beyond the present is often delayed or ignored," said Professor Adam Beck, director of the American College MassMutual Center for Special Needs Planning. "Leaving a special needs child financially insecure is a serious problem and this study confirms that a majority of special needs families lack the most basic preparations for their own financial security and that of their child."

Caregivers are concerned about what the future holds for their special needs relative, and for good reason. Alarmingly, 67 percent of Americans with special needs have no Special Needs Trust established for them, which puts them at imminent risk of losing Medicaid coverage and Social Security benefits.

• Almost nine in ten caregivers (87 percent) are concerned about what will happen to their special needs relative when they are no longer living.

• Fifty-nine (59) percent of caregivers have not taken the basic step of preparing a will

• Sixty (60) percent of caregivers with life insurance have less than $300,000 of coverage and fewer than half have the protection of whole life coverage. However, the lifetime cost of caring for a dependent with autism is between $1.4 and $2.4 million.

• Only 23 percent of caregivers have a formal financial plan for their dependent and only 37 percent work with a financial advisor.

Caregivers are also concerned about their own financial future and how their caregiving responsibilities may adversely impact their retirement. Most special needs caregivers will be caregivers for the duration of their lives — encompassing their entire retirement period — yet almost one-third of this group (30 percent) is not saving at all for retirement.

• Only 16 percent of caregivers strongly believe they are financial secure.

• Seventy (70) percent believe they will have to compromise their own retirement plans in order to provide for their special needs dependent.

• Seventy-seven (77) percent are concerned they won't be able to retire when they want to.

• Eighty (80) percent of caregivers are concerned they won't be able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle throughout retirement.

"The number of children born with special needs continues to grow, and the cost of care is escalating as well. Unfortunately, the financial services profession has not made special needs planning a priority, so too many families are unprepared for their financial future," said Beck. "However, there are well-established resources for special needs planning and advisors who specialize in serving these families. Together, these solutions can help provide financial security for both caregivers and those in need."

6. Retirees need $130,000 to cover health care costs

Retirees who thought they were doing pretty well with a couple hundred thousand set aside for retirement might need to think again. Health care expenses could eat up about $130,000 during an average retiree's golden years.

The estimate from Fidelity Investments forecasts women will spend about $135,000 on health care in retirement, while men will spend about $125,000 on health care in retirement. Why the difference? Because women tend to live longer than men.

That’s up 18 percent from 2014’s estimate for expenses including Medicare premiums, co-payments and out-of-pocket costs for items like hearing aids and glasses. Pushing the costs up are prescription drugs and increasing use of health care services as the economy recovers.

Frighteningly, this estimate doesn’t include long-term care expenses, including home health care or nursing homes, which can be astronomical.

To help mitigate these costs, people should carefully study Medicare supplemental insurance policies and maximize savings through health savings accounts while still working. Retirees can also implement strategic Social Security claiming strategies or invest in a longevity annuity.

7. Most Americans are concerned about health care expenses in retirement

A recent study by financial services firm Edward Jones found that almost two-thirds (60 percent) of Americans are concerned about how they will pay for health care expenses in retirement.

Researchers interviewed more than 1,000 non-retired and retired Americans. The study revealed a strong variation in the level of concern between age groups. Baby Boomers, the most recent generation to enter retirement age, were the most worried about covering the cost of health care, with 69 percent of those polled indicating that they are concerned, and 41 percent suggesting that they are “very” concerned. This is a striking difference from millennials — only 19 percent of whom were “very” concerned.

"Health care expenses can be difficult to project, especially when you are decades away from retirement,” said Scott Thoma, Principal and Investment Strategist for Edward Jones. “Unexpected conditions and medical expenses that manifest later in life pose a great threat not only to physical and mental health, but also to the financial well-being of both the care receiver and the caregiver. That’s why it is critical to start preparing early — proactive planning can ultimately help individuals protect their assets over the long term, even if health complications emerge during retirement.”

8. Many retirees are one health care crisis away from financial collapse

Findings of a study by the LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute reveal that more than half of nonretired Americans believe a significant out-of-pocket health care expense ($15,000 or more) would seriously compromise their financial security in retirement.

Eight in 10 nonretired Americans think there is a 50/50 chance that they would face this kind of health care expense if they were a 65 retiree today. Although survey retirees have only been retired an average of 8 years, 10 percent have already experienced an out-of-pocket expense of $15,000 or more for health care. The actual incidence of health care shocks is likely even higher because very sick people are usually unable to complete surveys.

According to the "Consumer Expenditure Survey," the average annual amount spent on health care in 2014 was $5,956 for those age 65 to 74 and $5,708 for those 75 years and older. This represents about 12 percent of all annual spending for those age 65 to 74 and 15 percent for those age 75 or older.

Ignoring large out-of-pocket health care expenses, 6 in 10 nonretired Americans do not believe they have enough to cover day-to-day health care expenses not covered by Medicare in retirement. Women were less confident they could cover these costs in retirement (34 percent) vs. men (46 percent).

The study found that 80 percent of nonretired consumers who worked with a financial professional believed they understood how much their future health care expenses would be in retirement. In comparison, only 6 in 10 who haven’t consulted a financial professional felt confident they knew how much health care expenses would impact their retirement finances.

Overall, both retirees and nonretired consumers believe financial professionals can help consumers manage health care risks in retirement. And it appears financial professionals recognize the need for planning for health care costs in retirement. Recent Institute research finds 42 percent of financial professionals want training on health care planning to better help their clients.

9. Women often regret not waiting to claim Social Security

Looking back, 17 percent of women who are currently drawing Social Security wish they could change their decision and file later, according to a Nationwide Retirement Institute survey conducted by Harris Poll. Of those who would not change their filing decision, 39 percent say an unforeseen life event compelled them to take it early, including unplanned health problems (17 percent).

On average women live longer, meaning they spend more time in retirement and often do so with less savings. Due to these factors, on average women retirees could spend 70 percent of their Social Security benefit on health care costs, the survey said. Women count on Social Security or will count on it to pay, on average, 56 percent of all their expenses in retirement. However, 80 percent of retired women currently collecting Social Security benefits took those benefits early, locking in a lifetime of lower income.

The online survey included 465 women over 50 who are retired or plan to be in the next 10 years. It found that of women currently collecting Social Security, only 17 (5 percent) maximized their monthly check by waiting to claim at age 70 or later.

"Too many women retirees have no retirement income outside of Social Security," says Roberta Eckert, vice president of the Nationwide Retirement Institute. "And even for women that do, the fact that they live longer makes maximizing Social Security benefits extremely important."

More than a third of women (35 percent) were kept from doing the things they wanted in retirement. Health care expenses in particular keep nearly one in four (24 percent) from the retirement they desired.

More than one in four women currently drawing Social Security (30 percent) say their Social Security payment is less than they expected. Only 13 percent of women say they received advice on Social Security from a financial advisor. However, nearly 9 in 10 women surveyed who work with an advisor (86 percent) say their Social Security payment was as expected or more than they expected.

"There are a variety of efficient filing strategies open to women — but too few seek professional advice from a financial advisor to take advantage of them," says Kevin McGarry, director of the Nationwide Retirement Institute.

It's not that women don't want the advice. In fact, about three in five women (61 percent) admit that if their financial advisor could not show them how to maximize their benefit — then they would switch to an advisor who could.

10. Half of Americans are afraid they will outlive their money

A recent survey conducted by Research Now Group Inc. and commissioned by Fifth Third Private Bank found that nearly half of those surveyed have serious concerns that they may outlive their money in retirement.

The bank launched the survey to understand families' financial planning pain points and gain insight into how the process could be simplified through its new platform, Life360.

"The study confirmed the anxiety that clients have shared with our advisors is reflective of similar concerns nationally," said Phil McHugh, executive vice president and head of wealth and asset management at Fifth Third. "Much of that anxiety stems from a lack of clearly articulated financial goals and alignment around achieving them.”

The survey revealed that several stressors contribute to anxiety around the financial planning process:

• Forty-three percent feel managing their finances has gotten more complex over the past five years.

• Nearly half take between one and five hours to research, organize and calculate their overall financial picture on an annual basis.

• Only 28 percent feel completely confident in the accuracy of their methods to keep up to date with their overall financial picture.

• More than one-third of respondents use two or more advisors to help them manage their financial activities.

• Thirty percent of survey respondents were unable to confirm their dependents would know where to easily access or find ALL important and legal documents.

• Only one in four feels more optimistic about their financial future than they did one year ago.

11. Even your boss is worried about your retirement readiness

U.S. employers are becoming increasingly concerned over their employees’ financial well-being, and they are planning to take action to help their employees retire in a timely manner, according to a new survey by Willis Towers Watson, a global advisory, broking and solutions company. In response, the survey found that a growing number of employers plan to shift resources toward benefit adequacy and retirement readiness over the next two years.

The Retirement Plan Governance Survey of more than 300 U.S. employers found nearly 4 in 10 employers (39 percent) that offer a defined benefit and defined contribution (DC) plan view their employees’ retirement readiness as a current risk. Even more — 44 percent — view it as a risk two years from now.

“Not surprisingly, retirement benefit adequacy and the financial fitness of their workers are growing concerns among employers,” said Dave Suchsland, senior retirement consultant at Willis Towers Watson. “This is particularly true among employers that offer only a DC plan. In fact, workers’ inability to retire in a timely fashion was identified as the top risk for nearly 6 in 10 of these plan sponsors. The ongoing shift to DC plans is now prompting employers to prioritize resources that promote retirement readiness.”

A majority of defined contribution plan sponsors currently devote their top investment resources primarily to monitoring investment fees (74 percent) and manager performance (61 percent). However, employers are planning a greater focus on benefit adequacy and monitoring participant behavior moving forward. According to the survey, the percentage of DC plan sponsors that prioritize benefit adequacy will more than double in the next two years, from 18 percent to 38 percent.

“We are beginning to see governance committees adopt a more holistic view to DC oversight. They continue to review investments and plan fees, and they are also considering retirement readiness and how the program influences plan participants’ behavior to improve outcomes for them,” said Suchsland.

12. The majority of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings

When it comes to saving money, Americans have gone from bad to worse, according to the latest GOBankingRates survey.

In 2015, GOBankingRates surveyed more than 5,000 adults and found that 62 percent have less than $1,000 in savings, and 28 percent reported having no savings at all. This year, those numbers have jumped — 69 percent have less than $1,000 in savings, and 34 percent have a savings account balance of $0.

"What our survey found is extremely shocking because it shows that the majority of Americans are just one emergency expense away from being broke," said Kristen Bonner, lead researcher on the study. "Because there is no way to predict when a financial emergency can arise, it is crucial to make saving money a habit in case the worst happens."

Among the study findings:

• Forty percent of Americans making $100,000-plus a year have less than $1,000 in savings.

• Women are more likely than men to have $0 saved — 42 percent have nothing saved versus 28 percent.

• Millennials aged 25 to 34 are more likely than Gen Xers aged 45-54 to have $1,000 or more in savings.

• These 5 Southern states have the highest percentage of residents with $0 in savings: Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Georgia and Texas.

• Sixty-two percent of seniors aged 65 and up have less than $1,000 in savings, with 1 in 3 having no savings account at all.

13. Half of Americans are in debt

Paying off debt is the No. 1 source of financial stress in the U.S. today, according to GOBankingRates, which surveyed nearly 3,000 adults asking about their mortgage, credit card, student loan and medical debts.

The median debt for the 49 percent of those who owe money is $38,850.

Mortgage loan debt was the largest category of debt, with 39 percent of Americans reporting they owe money on a mortgage. The median mortgage loan debt is $59,500. However the median mortgage debt for women is $74,000, $14,000 more than it is for men.

Credit card debt was the second largest category at 38 percent. The median credit card debt is $2,000. Almost half of adults earning $100,000 to $149,999 have credit card debt, the largest percentage of any income bracket

Auto loans account for the third largest pool of debt among Americans, with 38 percent say they are paying on a vehicle loan. The median auto loan debt is $8,000.

Student loan debt came in fourth place with 27 percent of Americans paying school loans on a medium debt of $9,100. Women reported having twice as much student loan debt as men.

Finally, 21 percent of Americans reported having debt related to medical expenses. The median medical debt is $600.

"Our survey found that Americans are saddled with various types of debt — from mortgages and student loans to credit card and medical debt — but it is a burden that can be overcome," said Cameron Huddleston, life and money columnist for GOBankingRates. "The best way to dig yourself out of debt is to make paying off what you owe a priority. Take a close look at your spending to figure out what unnecessary costs you can cut, then put that money toward your debt each month before you have a chance to spend it on something else."

The good news? Fifty-one percent of Americans report that they are debt free.

14. The majority of Americans plan to work during retirement

Seventy percent of nonretired Americans plan to work as long as possible during retirement, according to a Bankrate.com report. Only 25 percent say they have no plans to work during retirement.

Of those who plan to work as long as possible during retirement, 38 percent are planning to work because they like to work and 35 percent said they plan to work because they need the money. Twenty-seven percent said both. Early retirement is no longer the goal it once was: just 13 percent of nonretired Americans hope to retire in their 50s, down from 27 percent in 2007.

Additionally, the Bankrate.com survey found that nearly half of retirees (47 percent) are either very worried or somewhat worried about outliving their retirement savings, up from 37 percent in 2009, the last time this question was asked.

"Working during retirement brings a lot of benefits," said Jill Cornfield, Bankrate.com retirement analyst. "I'm not surprised that nearly three-quarters of people said they'd like to work as long as they can while in retirement. It's not just the money. When you can work as a consultant or find some part-time gig, it really helps you stay sharp."

As for Social Security, 70 percent of nonretirees expect it to account for some of their income in retirement, including 10 percent who are depending on Social Security for all of their income. Interestingly, out of all the age groups, millennials were the most likely to say that they don't expect to receive any money from Social Security when they retire (32 percent).

15. Retirees who continue working face tax disincentives

Extended work can lead to higher taxes, according to a study conducted by researchers at Boston University, the University of California at Berkeley and Economic Security Planning Inc.

"If the boomers are short on regular assets, short on retirement account assets, short on defined benefit pensions, short on Social Security benefits, long on explicit and implicit taxes, and the government can’t help, boomers have but one option to maintain their living standards — earn more by working more at their current jobs, delaying their retirements, or returning to work if they have already retired," the report said.

"This is far easier said than done. Hour constraints at their current jobs, age discrimination, increasing preference for leisure, and health limitations are four major factors that limit older workers’ abilities and desire to raise their earnings through time. Older workers also experience age-related declines in productivity and, where applicable, negative private pension accrual associated with ongoing work."

Even worse, government-imposed work disincentives may discourage people from extending work. The report listed explicit marginal taxation such as FICA payroll taxes, implicit taxation associated with the loss of government benefits, and increased premiums associated with increased earnings as disincentives for workers continue working at or after retirement age.

16. Baby boomers keep getting divorced

“Gray divorce” is a trend with no end in sight, according to research from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. A survey of its members found that 64 percent have seen an increase in divorces cases among couples aged 50 years or older.

Failed marriages among people over 50 doubled from 1990 to 2010, according to Bowling Green State University’s National Center for Family & Marriage Research.

The top three issues divorcing boomers fight about is alimony (83 percent), retirement accounts and pensions (62 percent) and business interests (60 percent).

“A rising divorce rate is becoming a very consistent trend with the baby boomer generation,” said Joslin Davis, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. “As people live longer, their relationships can change in some very dramatic ways, but spouses within this age range also need to be extremely mindful about the complexities of negotiating key issues involving spousal support and retirement accounts.”

Davis recommends couples in the over-50 age range who are divorcing immediately recognize and accept that two households will often not be able to live at the same level as one household. She also cautions the supporting spouse in these cases that it is often worthwhile to consider sharing more assets and retirement funds upfront in order to work out an agreement that doesn’t necessarily include alimony. Davis also advises dependent spouses that the prospect of long-term alimony can serve as a very powerful negotiating tool.

17. Adult children are derailing their parents' retirement

After two or more decades of raising children, empty nesters often look forward to a break from the financially draining years of parenting and the resulting opportunity to build their retirement savings. People in their 50s often are at the peak of their earning potential and theoretically are well positioned to accelerate their retirement savings when their children leave home.

In reality, household savings through 401(k) plans do increase for empty nesters, but only a tiny 0.3 to 0.7 percentage points, according to research from Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research.

“Among the explanations offered for the lackluster increase in savings is empty nesters’ continued financial support of adult children,” wrote Dearing of SUM180. “Picking up their grown kids’ expenses — student loans, insurance, auto payments, smart phone bills — is a generosity those who have not yet saved enough for retirement can ill-afford.”

Dearing recommends empty nesters recognize that the years after children leave home and before retirement are critical to setting themselves up for a comfortable retirement and long-term financial security. This may encompass re-evaluating priorities, including reducing or eliminating financial assistance to adult children.

18. We [were] all worried about the election, but not enough of us are worried about saving for retirement

A study from Personal Capital finds that while all Americans seem to place a low priority on retirement savings in general, Republicans are more likely to maintain a retirement savings account than democrats. The survey found 1 in 5 Americans of working age have no retirement savings regardless of party affiliation.

"Regardless of who wins the presidency, there are 10,000 people who retire each day in this country, and that number is expected to remain the same until the last baby boomer turns 65 in 2030," said Bill Harris, CEO of Personal Capital. "If this survey shows us anything, it's that we all need to see retirement savings as a priority, because we will all be impacted by it in the future."

The survey found that millennials (age 18-34) feel more secure about their retirement (20 percent) versus those aged 35-54 (12 percent). Younger people see education as a priority issue this election (31 percent), behind terrorism (43 percent) but ahead of the economy (28 percent), with only 7 percent listing retirement savings as a top issue.

"The increasing costs of higher education are having a direct impact on millennials who are holding off on saving for retirement," said Harris. "With the average new graduate saddled with $37,172 in debt, up from about $35,000 last year, that may seem like the logical choice today. But, our fear is that this group will hold off until it's too late."

Americans are universal in their concern about the consequences of their preferred candidate not winning the election. When asked about retirement, 64 percent of Republicans and 18 percent of Democrats are "more worried" about their retirement savings if Hillary Clinton is elected, while 59 percent of Democrats and 15 percent of Republicans are "more worried" about their retirement savings if Donald Trump [were]elected.

Retirement woes by the numbers:

• Total millennials from both parties feel "very unfavorable" toward Trump (57 percent) and are "more worried"' about retirement savings if he is elected (49 percent)

• Households that earn under $50,000 say they are 'more worried' if Trump is elected; households that earn over $50,000 say they are 'more worried' if Clinton is elected

• Only 19 percent of Clinton supporters and 18 percent of Trump supporters report feeling "confident" with their retirement savings

"Both parties have devoted sections of their official 2016 platforms to Social Security and how they will address retirement security if they are in the White House," continued Harris. "We know that with the growing cost of healthcare, education and the shifting economy, Americans will only be able to retire comfortably by planning and saving for the future — no matter who wins the election."

Originally published on LifeHealthPro.com
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