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Americans too optimistic about retirement readiness

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Doom-and-gloom headlines notwithstanding, 51 percent of Americans believe they’re on track to achieve their retirement goals.

But one could call that magical thinking, considering how much workers have managed to save for retirement.

According to the BlackRock Global Investor Pulse survey, people approaching retirement have managed to put away an average total of $136,200.

That may sound like a lot, particularly when compared with all those headlines screaming about people who have saved zero toward their retirement, but when you break it down into annual cash needs in retirement, it’s nowhere near enough.

Survey respondents estimated that they’ll need an average of $45,500 to meet their retirement expectations.

But when you calculate how much annual income they can get out of that savings balance, it only amounts to $9,150 per year—way short of what they estimate they’ll need to get by every year once they leave the workforce.

Even affluent pre-retirees, the study said, have managed to sock away $567,000, but estimate that they’ll need $59,600 to pay their annual expenses.

Their savings won’t give them that—it will only provide $37,800 per year.

Perhaps the saddest thing is the expectations people have for retirement.

The vast majority—84 percent—plan to spend their time pursuing their interests and hobbies, while 77 percent are anticipating traveling and 74 percent expect to feel financially secure. In reality, on those numbers, they’ll be anything but.

To top it off, 57 percent of Americans think they’ve got a sufficiently diversified portfolio to get them to their goals—but 65 percent of their wealth is in cash, not in investments.

And cash, of course, doesn’t return enough to boost those balances.

So what’s their fallback strategy? In a word, work—working longer and retiring later, or working during retirement.

While 52 percent of respondents said they want to continue doing paid work during their retirement, that could be a pipe dream.

Only 19 percent of people aged 65–74 are doing any kind of paid work.