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5 things to know about Americans and retirement planning

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At least half the country is more worried about retirement than anything else.

That’s according to GOBankingRates’ 2015 Life+Money Survey, which found that planning for retirement topped the list of financial worries in 25 states.

Respondents were offered a choice of seven different financial worries to choose from:

    1. Building an investment portfolio

    2. Paying for higher education

    3. Paying off credit cards

    4. Planning for retirement

    5. Saving for a home

    6. Saving up an emergency fund

    7. Sticking to a budget

While 20.1 percent chose No. 7, “sticking to a budget,” No. 4 “planning for retirement” just barely missed first place at 19.8 percent — and it topped the list in 25 states.

Okay, percentage-wise it doesn’t wash as half the country, but it’s significant that it’s the dominant issue in half the states — even above the budget issue, which clocked in at a just-slightly-higher level.

Neither the other 25 states nor the District of Columbia were anywhere near as focused on a single financial worry.

Despite its high response percentage, “sticking to a budget” only dominated 19 states (actually, make that 16 if you throw out the three states in which budgets tied with retirement as the top concern — Arizona, Montana, and Wyoming).

Four states and the District of Columbia were most concerned with paying for higher education (15.4 percent of respondents), while saving up an emergency fund worried 12.6 percent of respondents (although it only dominated in South Dakota).

Saving for a home was the main concern of 11.9 percent, though not enough in any one state to dominate (surprising as that may be in California, New York, and New Jersey, where home prices are high).

And 11.8 percent focused on paying off credit cards; enough were concentrated in Alaska, Maine and New Hampshire to make that the dominant issue in each of those states.

Here are five intriguing things we saw in responses to the retirement planning issue:

1. It’s a guy thing.

Men view planning for retirement as a bigger challenge than women, at 20 percent compared with 17 percent.

That’s kind of scary, since it’s actually a bigger problem for women than men — lower salaries, lower savings totals, longer lifespans, and fewer years in the workplace all conspire to make retirement a difficult time for many women.

Yet men are more worried about it than they are; perhaps women are too busy worrying about all those other factors to be able to worry that far ahead.

(Men were also more worried than women about building an investment portfolio, at 9 percent vs. 6 percent.)

See also: Here’s how wide the retirement gap is between men and women

2. It’s big among older GenXers and younger baby boomers.

Respondents 34 and younger were far more concerned with other issues — such as millennials’ focus on paying for education, and younger GenXers’ attempts to save for a house or pay off credit cards.

Reponsdents 65 and older are most likely among the age groups to see building an investment portfolio as their biggest challenge.

That’s not to say that seniors aren’t concerned with retirement; they are.

While portfolio-building rated the highest priority of 13 percent of seniors, double that number were worried about planning for retirement, while 19 percent were worried about sticking to a budget, and 15 percent were worried about trying to build an emergency fund.

See also: Millennials vs. boomers vs. Gen Xers: How they stack up in 5 charts

3. Boomers are nearly five times as likely to focus on planning for retirement as millennials.

Millennials, logically enough, aren’t all that worried about retirement planning, compared with boomers on the verge, 34.1 percent of whom say it’s their biggest financial challenge.

Instead, millennials are focused on saving for a home or figuring out how to pay off higher education expenses.

The young folks are still thinking about it, though.

The fewest are among the young millennials, up to age 24, with just 7 percent putting retirement worries before other concerns, and 13 percent of older millennials are worried about getting that head start on retirement savings.

See also: A good retirement plan is still impossible

4. High earners don’t seem all that worried.

Those who earn more than $100,000 are far more focused on building an investment portfolio (21 percent),  and those earning between $100,000–$149,999 are paying for higher education (21 percent).

But it’s still on the radar screen, no matter the income level.

The lowest level of worry comes, unsurprisingly, from the highest-income group, at 15 percent. But not all that much separates them, worry-wise, from other income groups.

Who has retirement at the top of their radar screens?

  • 17 percent of those earning between $100,000–$149,999

  • 16 percent of those earning between $75,000–$99,999

  • 22 percent of those earning between $50,000–$74,999

  • 20 percent of those earning between $25,000–$49,999

  • 17 percent of those earning $0–$24,999

5. Geography has little effect — worriers are everywhere.

Those most worried about retirement planning are literally almost all over the map.

With the exception of a single state in the Pacific Northwest, most of the 25 states dominated by that concern are concentrated in the Northeast, South and Midwest: a grouping from Canada around the Great Lakes on down to Louisiana

And of course they’re not the only ones to worry about planning for retirement.

See also:

42 stats that explain the life insurance coverage gap

How to calm a panicked client? Look at stable assets

The ugly truth: Women have to work harder to catch up in retirement saving


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