March 14, 2013

Americans Increasingly Stressed Over Retirement

New Franklin Templeton survey finds disconnect between retirement expectations, realities

Isn’t retirement supposed to be a time of reduced stress?

A new survey from Franklin Templeton finds that nearly three-quarters (73%) of Americans report thinking about retirement saving and investing to be a source of stress and anxiety.

The survey, “2013 Franklin Templeton Retirement Income Strategies and Expectations,” also finds more than a third (37%) of respondents indicated they were more concerned about outliving their assets or having to make major sacrifices to their retirement plans today than 12 months ago.  In response to this, two-thirds (67%) of pre-retirees indicated they were willing to make financial sacrifices now in order to live better in retirement.

“The findings reveal that the pressures of saving for retirement are felt much earlier than you might expect. Some people begin feeling the weight of affording retirement as early as 30 years before they reach that phase of their life,” Michael Doshier, vice president of retirement marketing for Franklin Templeton Investments, said in a statement. “Very telling, those who have never worked with a financial advisor are more than three times as likely to indicate a significant degree of stress and anxiety about their retirement savings as those who currently work with an advisor.”

In contrast to those making financial sacrifices to save, three in 10 American adults have not started saving for retirement. The survey notes it’s not just young adults who are lacking in savings; 68% of those aged 45 to 54 and half of those aged 55 to 64 have $100,000 or less in retirement savings.

Income is a Source of Retirement Stress

Respondents have an understanding of their expected expenses in retirement, indicating that the expenses they are most concerned about paying are health care (48%), living (24% housing, 3% food) and lifestyle (12%). A full 93% of pre-retirees expect their retirement expenses to be similar or less than pre-retirement spending, and only 15% of those retired indicated that their actual retirement spending was more than expected.

An examination of retirement income sources revealed that nearly half (47%) of respondents do not know with a high degree of confidence how much of their current income will be replaced by Social Security and a comparable number (44%) are similarly unsure concerning their employer-sponsored (defined contribution) retirement plan (i.e., 401(k), 403(b)).  More than three in five pre-retirees (62%) do not know how much they can expect to withdraw from their savings annually during retirement.

Working with an advisor appears to help; 58% of those who have worked with an advisor to develop a written retirement income strategy are confident about how much of their income will be replaced by Social Security, and 55% are confident about how much of their income will be replaced by their employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Retirement Misconceptions

The survey revealed two retirement misconceptions that might have serious implications on retirement income. 

When asked what adjustment they would make if they were unable to retire as planned due to insufficient income, the top two responses were to delay retirement (62%) and to increase sources of income (i.e. work part time) (45%). However, one-third of today’s retirees surveyed were forced into retirement due to circumstances beyond their control, such as health issues and company downsizing, indicating that working longer may not be a realistic option for many people.

Secondly, the majority (74%) of pre-retirees anticipates taking Social Security benefits at their “full” retirement age (age 66 to 67) or later. However, the majority (63%) of today’s retirees were forced to tap Social Security benefits early, sacrificing their benefit amount by as much as 25%.

“Assuming you can just stay on the job longer could cost you,” Doshier added. “But taking just a little time to write down a plan, with an advisor, can not only help you understand your true options better, it might also reduce your feelings of stress.”

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