From the December 2007 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Not So Bad After All?

New survey finds couples in agreement on saving for retirement

As an advisor, you may have seen first hand that planning for retirement and deciding how to spend that money can spark disagreement between couples as they approach their golden years. However, a new study conducted by Harris Interactive for The Wall Street Journal Online suggests that you may not have to worry about seeing that contention on a daily basis. According to the survey--taken online by 2,321 U.S. adults, September 4 to 6, 2007--men and women respond similarly when asked whether they and their partners are on the same page about saving for retirement. In fact, about half (49% of men and 47% of women, respectively) say they are in agreement with their spouse or partner about this issue. Furthermore, higher-income couples ($75,000 or above) are even more likely to be in agreement about retirement savings. This is a positive development, although apparently only for those who are willing to have the conversation with their partner. The study found that although individuals that talk to their spouses and partners about retirement savings are likely to be on the same page about retirement savings, 24% of pre-retired adults say they have never even discussed how much they need to save for retirement with their spouse/partner.

As for how this stage of life will be financed, retired adults in the survey said they rely mostly on Social Security (39%) and employer-based pensions (26%). By contrast, only 20% of pre-retired adults expect to rely primarily on Social Security in retirement, and just 11% are counting on an employer-based pension, revealing this group's understanding of how the retirement-funding landscape is changing. In fact, those under the age of 35 plan on taking matters into their own hands when it comes to funding their later years; younger adults (ages 18-34) said they are likely to fund their retirements with their own savings and investments and don't expect significant income from Social Security.

The Harris research also revealed that nearly half of retired adults (47%) find that their living expenses are about what they have expected. Furthermore, those who are already retired are more likely to feel comfortable living on less than those that are pre-retired, with 49% of retired adults living comfortably on less than $50,000 per year, and only 29% of pre-retired adults believing that that amount of money would be enough.

"Pre-retirees have higher expectations for income requirements in retirement," noted Richard Millard, president of the Financial Services Industry Research Group at Harris Interactive, in a statement. "This may be because of rising expectations around retirement planning, or because they aren't able to accurately anticipate their needs and expenses. Given the talk about the instability of Social Security in the future, it is important for pre-retired adults to begin to plan accordingly for their retirement needs sooner rather than later."

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