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Retirement Planning > Retirement Investing

Gen Xers, Boomers Struggle With ‘Evolving Realities’ of Retirement: AARP

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Americans 35 and older who have full-time jobs anticipate that they will not be able to retire when they hit the traditional retirement age, according to a survey released Thursday by AARP’s Life Reimagined, a personal guidance system launched in 2014.

Eighty-seven percent of those polled who were working full time said they wanted to retire someday, and 69% hoped to do so by age 65. However, 52% said they did not expect to retire by 65, or at any age.

AARP noted that these findings were in line with a Bureau of Labor Statistics prediction that workforce participation among Americans in the 65-to-74 age group would hit 32% by 2022, up from 20% in 2002.

Although respondents acknowledged that they would be working longer, only 19% of Gen Xers and 12% of boomers said they were motivated to get up in the morning by going to a job that fulfilled them.

“This new survey points out the differences between traditional ideals and today’s expectations of both Gen Xers and boomers as evolving realities begin to take shape, especially when it comes to work,” Carey Kyler, vice president of consumer experience and strategy at Life Reimagined, said in a statement.

“Many are feeling overwhelmed by the challenges that these new life transitions present, which is why AARP first launched Life Reimagined. People are looking for help navigating these new realities and figuring out what to do next in their careers or work.”

Alan Newman Research fielded the random-digit-dial telephone survey of 1,026 adults in mid-May. The sample, which comprised approximately 70% landline and 30% cell phones, was weighted to be representative of the U.S. population aged 35 and older.

UN data show the average U.S. retirement age is rising; it was 64 in 2014, up from 63 in 2010. The Social Security Administration’s full retirement age is rising gradually from 65, for those born in 1937 or earlier, to 67 for those born in 1960 or later.

Sleepless Nights

Researchers asked the AARP survey participants what kept them up at night besides fears about retirement. Half cited financial concerns.

Forty-two percent were concerned about physical health challenges, 22% fretted about relationship issues and 20% had worries about work.

A third of respondents felt their health would present the biggest challenge the in the next five years.

This was a much higher proportion than those who expected challenges related to their children, their work, (re)discovering their purpose, their home or their romantic relationships, according to the survey findings.

In the next five to 10 years, 62% said they dreaded having health problems, 59% losing a loved one and 55% having less money.


To assess what was driving Americans 35 and older before and during retirement, the survey found a third got most excited about the day by the prospect of spending time with friends or family.

Sixty-nine percent said that if money were not a factor, they would volunteer or donate to a cause, and 58% said they would travel the world.

Most of respondents who were working full time and wanted to retire someday said they would like to travel, pursue a passion or volunteer in retirement.

Forty-nine percent of working respondents said they would do a different kind of job if they could. The ideal jobs for those who would switch would be doing the following:

  • Something that helps or teaches others, 30%
  • Something creative or artistic, 25%
  • Something outdoors, 15%
  • Something administrative, 8%
  • Something with numbers, 7%
  • Something athletic, 5%

Managing Transitions

The telephone interviewers asked how respondents would manage the challenges that life transitions bring.

Respondents recognized that their money would have to work for them longer, as 73% expected their midlife phase to be longer than that of earlier generations.

In fact, only 16% of those who were working full time believed they would be able to retire at a younger age than their parents’ generation. Forty-six percent said they would be older when they retired.

When faced with a difficult situation, 38% of respondents said they were most likely to react by making a plan. Twenty-six percent were most likely to connect with others, while 16% were most likely to withdraw from others, 8% indulge themselves or react in some other way.

Respondents cited major barriers to navigating transitions in life:

  • Having enough money, 49%
  • Feeling overwhelmed, 31%
  • Not knowing where to begin, 23%
  • Finding helpful resources, 21%
  • Not having support from family and/or friends, 21%
  • Not wanting to think about it, 20%
  • Being too busy, 12%
  • Not being able to find someone who experienced a similar issue, 11%

Three-quarters of adults in the survey said having enough money was a barrier of some kind to navigating life transitions, including such areas as career, financial or relationships.

— Check out How to Spend, and Pay Taxes on, Your 401(k) on ThinkAdvisor.



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