Americans in all age groups are getting the picture that the old three-legged stool of income for retirement is just too wobbly — so they’re adding a fourth leg: work.
So says new research from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, “Retirement Throughout the Ages: Expectations and Preparations of American Workers,” which found that retirement really isn’t all that “retired” any more, as many workers realize that current income models meant to support them in retirement aren’t going to provide what they need.
“The long-held view that retirement is a moment in time when people reach a certain age, immediately stop working, fully retire, and begin pursuing their dreams is more myth than reality,” said Catherine Collinson, president of TCRS, in a statement.
Collinson added, “Retirement has become a transition that may be phased over time or happen abruptly due to intervening circumstances.”
To support this view of workers’ new concept of retirement, the study offers the news that one out of every five workers (20 percent) plans to work as long as possible in their present position, or something similar, till they can’t work any more.
In addition, 41 percent are planning on reducing hours as a transition into retirement. Twenty-six percent say this is to give them more leisure time to enjoy life, while 15 percent say it will be in a different, less-demanding capacity or one that gives them greater personal satisfaction.
Another 18 percent say they aren’t sure how they’ll transition into retirement.
The way expectations are changing shows in where people expect the money for retirement to come from. While 69 percent are looking to Social Security and 68 percent say retirement accounts(401(k)s, 403(b)s and IRAs), 45 percent cite other investments. But 37 percent say that work will provide income, compared with just 23 percent expecting defined benefit plans to kick in. Thirteen percent will get money from home equity and 11 percent are hoping for an inheritance.
Along with those changing expectations, the study explored the attitudes and savings success of workers in each decade of their working lives.
Among those in their 20s, 67 percent already are putting money away for retirement, even though they’re also dealing with the twin handicaps of student loan debt and credit card debt. The median age at which they’re starting to save for retirement is 22 — no doubt spurred on by what they’ve seen among older family members during the Great Recession.
But just because they’re saving doesn’t mean they understand investing, with 37 percent saying they know “nothing” about asset allocation and 27 percent saying they are “not sure” how what they’re putting away is invested. Those who do know how their savings are invested are taking few chances with what they save, despite the long time horizon till retirement, with 24 percent sticking to investments that are long term and low risk.
Workers in their 30s started a bit later than the twentysomethings, beginning to save for retirement at a median age of 25. A higher percentage of them are saving, too, with 76 percent doing so. And 30 percent of those who are participating in a 401(k) or similar plan are socking away an impressive 10 percent of annual pay. Impressive, but still not as high as experts say they’ll need.