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Retirement Planning > Saving for Retirement

Many fear they won’t have enough to ‘survive’

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The middle-class, in case we didn’t already know, is in trouble. But it is suffering particularly when it comes to retirement saving, which it Just. Isn’t. Doing.

The fifth annual Wells Fargo Retirement Study found that 34 percent of middle-class Americans aren’t putting money away at all — whether it’s for a 401(k), an IRA or some other retirement vehicle. 

Among those ages 50-59, the number is worse: 41 percent aren’t saving for retirement. Almost a third (31 percent) say they won’t have enough money to “survive” on in retirement, and when it comes to folks in their 50s, that percentage rises to nearly half (48 percent).

Depressed yet? Wait. If you thought saving for retirement was a challenge, you’re far from alone, with 68 percent of respondents saying that it’s “harder than I anticipated.” 

More than half (55 percent) say they’re going to save “later” to “make up for not saving now.”

Among those in the prime age range for saving, 30-49, 59 percent are banking on that procrastination plan, while 27 percent just aren’t contributing to a retirement plan or account. 

The irony is that not only do 72 percent say they should have started saving earlier for retirement (that’s up from 65 percent in 2013), 61 percent admit that they’re not sacrificing “a lot” to save for retirement. (Thirty-eight percent say they are.) And when asked if they would cut expenses “tomorrow” to save for retirement, only half said they would. 

Where would they find the money to save? 

Fifty-five percent said it would come out of spending for spa treatments, jewelry and impulse purchases; 55 percent said they’d stop eating at restaurants “as often”; and 51 percent said it would have to come out of funds planned for a car, a home renovation or a computer. Only 38 percent said they’d forego a vacation to save for retirement. 

When they do save, they’re not saving all that much. The survey indicates that the median amount saved is $20,000 — down from $25,000 in 2013. 

Middle-class Americans expect to need a median of $250,000 in retirement, but are only saving a median of $125 monthly. If you discount younger middle-class individuals with lower-paying jobs and consider those between the ages of 30-49, savings are a bit higher, at a median of $200 a month. But when you look at people in their 50s, that amount drops to only $78. 

Not surprisingly, those with financial plans (only 28 percent) save more, a median of $250 per month. Also, people with 401(k)s save more, and 85 percent of those with a plan say they “wouldn’t have saved as much for retirement” without it. 

Among those who don’t think they’ll have enough money, it’s a truly grim picture. 

Nearly half (48 percent) say they aren’t confident they will have put away enough “to live the lifestyle they want” in retirement, and that number increases to 71 percent for those in their 50s. Scarier still, a quarter of all middle-class Americans say they “get depressed” thinking about how their finances will be in retirement. 

Bump that up to the folks in their 40s and 50s and you get one out of every three down in the dumps about it. And they’re serious: 22 percent said they’d rather “die early” than not have enough money for comfortable retirement living.

A third say they will have to work until they’re “at least 80” because they won’t have enough money otherwise. Half of folks in their 50s say they’ll be working until at least 80.


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