Dying is scary. There are no first-hand accounts to find out what it’s like, and no one can talk you through their personal experience of it and give you advice on what to do if you feel unprepared. Despite that, more older Americans are more afraid of depleting their assets than they are of actually dying.

In a poll of  3,257 people aged 44 to 75 conducted by Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America, more than three in five (61 percent) said they fear depleting their assets more than they fear dying.

The poll also found that nearly all respondents (92 percent) agreed that the United States is facing a crisis in its retirement system. Among those aged 44 to 54, 56 percent are afraid they won’t be able to cover their basic living expenses in retirement, and 36 percent said they had no idea whether their nest egg was sufficient.

Yet despite their fears, a majority of respondents among all age groups (79 percent) said they believe their retirement lifestyles should surpass that of their parents.

Allianz also recently conducted focus groups on retirement planning with older adults in three major cities. They found that workers who had traditional pension plans through their employers “seemed more calm and secure” about their ability to live comfortably in their later years, while those relying on personal savings or 401(k) plans to fund their retirement were more nervous, no doubt thanks to the dent in their assets caused by the economic downturn.

More than half (53 percent) of poll respondents said their net worth dropped significantly during the economic downturn. Of those, virtually all said they have cut back on entertaining and dining out, 47 percent have found ways to reduce their daily living expenses, and 11 percent have told their children to expect less financial support.

As an agent, what can you do to help your clients feel more secure in their retirement planning? Here are a few tips:

  • Start young. Instead of waiting until your client is approaching retirement age, talk about saving early. Approach your youngest clients and discuss the benefits of saving for retirement now. Draw parallels to your current older clients and financial situations they may be facing. Use stories and real-life examples to bring the point home.
  • Let them know they may need to change their lifestyle. For baby boomers, who always imagined living in a fancy house, driving a nice car, and having an extravagant retirement, this may not be the easiest adjustment. But times are tough, and when they started planning for retirement they weren’t planning for things like cable TV, cell phones, or longer life expectancies. By making small adjustments to their lifestyle, they can live comfortably for longer instead of extravagantly for shorter.
  • Maximize savings. Consider options like income annuities and retiree health insurance, if needed, to get your client the most bang for their buck.