Americans Look to Family to Help Fund Their Retirement: Survey

What millennials don’t understand about inflation, taxes and longevity could hurt them

Having enough money to live in retirement is a concern of Americans across all age groups, but whom are they counting on to fill retirement savings shortfalls?

New research by Natixis Global Asset Management shows that 78% of Americans think it is up to them to fund their retirement, but 77% say they are looking to their families for help.

Sixty-two percent of millennials in a national survey thought an inheritance from their parents or grandparents and support from their children would be important to meet their retirement needs, compared with 31% of baby boomers.

In addition, 47% of millennials said family assistance with housing and finances would be an important component of their financial security in retirement, compared with 24% of boomers.

Natixis in February surveyed 750 individual investors across the U.S. with a minimum of $100,000 in investable assets, including 223 millennials, 251 Gen Xers, 236 baby bomers and 85 retirees. The online survey was part of a larger global study of 8,300 investors in 22 countries and regions from Asia, Europe, the Americas and the Middle East.

Millennials’ reliance on a financial inheritance may leave many short-changed in the end, according to Natixis. Sixty-eight percent of younger respondents said they expected to receive an inheritance, yet 40% of boomers said they did not plan to leave one. In fact, 57% of boomers did not expect to have anything left, and another 35% planned to spend whatever money that was left on themselves.

The global study showed that Americans were the least likely to say they expected to leave an inheritance. In contrast, 91% of Mexicans expected to leave an inheritance, but only 37% looked forward to receiving one.

At the same time, 53% of Americans said they planned to donate a portion of their estate to charity, second only to 54% of South Korean respondents who said this. That compared with a global average of 37% of respondents.

Besides family support, 49% of Americans, including 60% of millennials and 43% of boomers, said they would rely on cash from the sale of a home and/or a business to afford life in retirement.

A third of married couples in the survey said their spouse’s retirement savings would be very important.

Only 37% of respondents expected Social Security benefits to be a critical source of retirement income, and 41% of millennials did not expect the benefits even to be available when they retired.

Virtually all American respondents agreed that their personal savings and investments, including workplace and other qualified retirement plans, would be a very important source of retirement income.

Threats to Retirement Security

“Our extensive research on investor behavior and expectations shows that younger investors are starting to plan and save for retirement earlier in life, in part because of the availability of workplace retirement savings plans,” Ed Farrington, executive vice president of retirement at Natixis, said in a statement.

“Yet many are underestimating the impact of taxes, inflation and increased longevity on their retirement savings, and are overestimating the planning their parents have done.”

Millennials in the survey expected to retire young, at age 59 on average, a full six years earlier than boomers, who expected to retire at age 65.

Millennials reported that they were saving at a rate based on an expectation to live for 25 years in retirement, putting them at age 84 at the end of their financial plans. Yet one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90 and one out of 10 will live past age 95, Natixis noted, citing data compiled by the Social Security Administration.

Both millennials and boomers in the survey considered the cost of long-term care and out-of-pocket health care expenses as the biggest threats to financial security in retirement.

Few investors appear concerned about inflation. Only 12% of respondents overall, and 17% of millennials, said they had factored inflation into their retirement savings planning.

Natixis noted that a 3% annual inflation rate could mean that a $100 purchase today would cost $181 by the time millennials retire, significantly accelerating the pace with which they use up accumulated savings.

Recent research showed that among financial advisors, inflation ranked dead last among 14 potential concerns.

However, millennials may be most caught off guard by the effect of taxes given their expectation of an inheritance. The Natixis survey found that even among the 60% of boomers who expected to leave an inheritance, 44% had not written a will, creating potential legal and tax consequences for their families and heirs.

Moreover, boomers who turn 70 ½ this year are now required to take minimum distributions from their tax-deferred retirement savings, and are subject to a 50% penalty if they do not.

Yet, 28% of these do not fully understand the required minimum distribution requirements, according to the survey. Twenty-five percent of older respondents who had a financial advisor said he or she had never talked with them about RMDs, and 39% said the advisor had not explored proactive ways to manage the tax implications of their withdrawals.

Planning and Advice

Natixis found that millennials had generally taken a more proactive and pragmatic approach to planning and saving for retirement than their older counterparts had.

Fifty-nine percent of millennials had already established a financial plan to help reach their retirement savings goals, on par with 56% of boomers.

In addition, 71% of the younger cohort said they had a general figure in mind for how much money they would need to have saved for retirement, and 54% had a clear idea of how much they would need to save each year to meet that goal.

A recent study found that automation is pushing 401(k) defined-contribution account balances to record highs.

Seventy-eight percent of millennials in the Natixis survey reported that they were getting professional advice, compared with only 55% of boomers.

“Much of the retirement planning dialogue is focused on saving for retirement and that message is getting through to the younger generation, but too little attention and advice is given to planning for life in retirement,” Farrington said.

According to the survey, 29% retirees still did not know how much income they needed annually to live on, let alone meet other goals. Forty-six percent of boomers said they wanted to leave some of their remaining assets to charity, yet only 6% felt they needed professional advice on how to do it.

Sixty-four percent of boomers agreed that they needed financial advice even in retirement for these considerations:

  • Understanding financial risks — 37%

  • Tax planning — 33%

  • Estate planning — 33%

  • Planning for financial implications of long-term care — 27%

“It’s important for financial professionals to recognize that retirement isn’t the end of a journey, but rather a new chapter in people’s financial lives,” David Giunta, chief executive of the U.S. and Canada for Natixis, said in the statement.

“People clearly still want and need professional help to enable them to enjoy their retirement and leave a lasting legacy for their families.”

--- Check out 10 Things to Know About RMDs on ThinkAdvisor.

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