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Surprise: Neither millennials, Gen Xers or boomers are prepared for retirement

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Millennials, Generation Xers and baby boomers are surprisingly similar in their approach to retirement planning and savings, according to research by the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI). Unfortunately, the similarity is not a good one: members of each generation are, in general, underprepared for retirement.

According the IRI Fact Book 2016, all three generations have unrealistic or passive views of retirement planning, and therefore lack confidence in their retirement preparedness.

Following are some key facts about millennials, Generation X and baby boomer attitudes toward retirement:

1. All generations have an unrealistic concept of retirement expenses

  • Seventy percent of millennials believe they will spend less than $36,000 per year in today’s dollars in retirement. But 2013 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show Americans ages 65 to 74 spend, on average, over $46,000 annually.
  • Boomers estimate health care expenses will consume, on average, 23 percent of their retirement income; GenXers estimate healthcare expenses will cost up 20 percent. In contrast, individuals 60 years and older spend 33 percent of their income on medical expenses.  

2. Each generation lacks retirement savings

  • Although 68 percent of millennials say they are saving or investing for retirement, 77 percent say debt-reduction is their top retirement planning priority.
  • Sixty-four percent of Gen Xers have money saved for retirement, compared with 55 percent of boomers.
  • Of those with savings, 38 percent of Gen Xers and 58 percent of boomers have saved more than $100,000.

3. No one generation has adequately planned for retirement

  • Even though a relatively high percentage of millennials say they are saving or investing, only 29 percent describe themselves as actively preparing for retirement.
  • More than half (58 percent) of Gen Xers and 61 percent of boomers say they have not tried to calculate their ideal retirement savings amount.
  • About one-third of boomers and Gen Xers who have tried to calculate needed retirement savings failed to factor in health care expenses.

4. Few are confident in their retirement preparations

  • Just over one-fourth (28 percent) of millennials believe they will not be able to retire when they want to, and another 28 percent believe they will never be able to fully retire.
  • Only 24 percent of GenXers and boomers are confident their savings will last through retirement.
  • Slightly more than one in five (22 percent) of boomers believe they are doing a good job financially preparing for retirement.

5. Every generation is more successful when it engages with financial professionals and invests in retirement products

  • Gen Xers who work with financial professionals are twice as likely as those who don’t to have at least $100,000 in retirement savings.
  • More than 90 percent of boomers who work with advisors have retirement savings; 78 percent have saved $100,000 or more.
  • Seven in 10 boomer annuity owners have saved $100,000 or more for retirement.

One important fact emerged from the IRI study: Individuals who work with an advisor are better prepared for, more confident about and have much more realistic expectations of their retirement. IRI research shows that, planning, saving and engaging professional help are the keys to improving retirement outcomes.

“Even boomers who are relatively close to retirement age can improve their prospects,” notes the report, adding that a 50-year-old worker earning $75,000 annually, if he makes maximum contributions to a retirement plan, can increase retirement savings by $239,000 by age 70. “Gen Xers and millennials, of course, have even more time and potential, but they must engage – effectively, and soon,” says the report.