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Top challenges for retirees: lack of funds, health concerns

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Almost daily, it seems, market research units of life insurance and other financial service providers are bombarding us surveys bemoaning the woeful lack of retirement planning among Americans. Amid the statistical onslaught there are, however, hopeful signs.

The latest good news: Three in four non-retirees under the age of 60 are in fact saving for retirement through a 401(k) or individual retirement account. That’s the word from BMO Harris Premier Services, a unit of BMO Financial Group, which discloses this finding in an online survey 3,163 Americans 18 years of age and older.

The study finds that:

  • Fifty-seven percent of respondents do not know how much they will need to fund their ideal retirement lifestyle and 44 percent do not know when they will retire.

  • The average age for non-retirees to start saving for retirement is 28.

  • Forty-three percent of Americans have thought about how they intend to live in retirement. But only 19 percent have a definite idea and 38 percent have not thought about it.

When asked what younger Americans plan to do once in retirement, 56 percent say they plan to spend their golden years relaxing and spending time with friends and family (50 percent), whereas 46 percent want to travel. Other plans included focusing on hobbies (39 percent) and working in retirement (30 percent), either part-time in their current career (20 percent) or by starting a new business (9 percent).

When asked about challenges they’re facing, more than 8 in 10 current American retirees (86 percent) say they are satisfied with their retirement lifestyle, yet 14 percent are unsatisfied with some lifestyle aspects. Among unsatisfied retirees, 83 percent cited lack of funds and health issues (37 percent) as their top challenges in retirement.

When asked what financial wisdom they would pass down to younger Americans, retirees recommend:

  • Opening a 401(k) and/or IRA account as soon as possible and making regular contributions (93 percent).

  • Talking to their partner to ensure they agree on what to do in retirement (91 percent).

  • Making faster mortgage payments a priority (79 percent).

“We’re seeing that today’s retirees are satisfied with their retirement lifestyle — what they have learned with the retirement planning process can serve as a model for future generations as they plan for their golden years,” says Stuart Thompson, head of premier banking strategy and segment management at BMO Harris Bank. “The notion of an ‘ideal retirement’ changes with each generation and proper financial planning is vital to achieving your desired retirement lifestyle.”