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Saving for Retirement Is Leading Cause of Financial Stress: Schwab Poll

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Building an adequate nest egg for a comfortable retirement is a big cause of financial stress for workers of all ages, including millennials with more years to accumulate savings, Schwab Retirement Plan Services reported Wednesday.

A vast majority of respondents in a new Schwab survey said the 401(k) was a “must-have” workplace benefit, and that they would hesitate to take a job that did not offer one.

Koski Research conducted the online poll of 1,000 U.S. 401(k) participants in early June. Respondents worked for companies with at least 25 employees, were current contributors to their 401(k) plans and were 25 to 70 years old. They were not asked whether they had 401(k) accounts with Schwab.

Forty percent of those surveyed said accumulating sufficient savings for retirement was a major source of financial stress in their lives, while 24% worried more about job security, 21% about paying off credit card debt and 20% keeping up with monthly expenses.

Nearly as many millennials named saving for retirement a significant source of financial stress. Twenty-nine percent said they were stressed by monthly expenses, 26% by credit card debt and 24% by student loan debt.

Half of survey respondents despaired of saving enough in their 401(k) for a comfortable retirement, and only 43% knew how much money they might need for their post-work years.

In contrast, their awareness of other important targets in their lives, like their ideal credit score (91%), weight (90%) and blood pressure (77%), was much higher.

“With so many competing obligations and priorities, it’s natural for people to worry about whether they’re saving enough for retirement,” Schwab Retirement Plan Services president Steve Anderson said in a statement.

“Roughly 9 out of 10 respondents told us they are relying mostly on themselves to finance retirement. It’s encouraging to see people of all ages taking responsibility for their own future and making this a top priority.”

The 401(k) and Financial Wellness

The survey found that the 401(k) was most respondents’ biggest or only source of retirement savings.

However, merely participating in a 401(k) plan is not enough for respondents. Only 51% said they were totally on top of their 401(k), and 35% said they felt stressed about picking the right investments for their plan.

Schwab noted that many participants could do more to maximize the benefits of a 401(k), but obstacles stood in the way. For example, rather than periodically increase their contributions per experts’ advice, 34% had not done so or had decreased contributions in the past two years.

For 32% of respondents, the chief barrier to saving more was unwillingness to sacrifice things that add to their quality of life, such as dining out or vacations.

Only 10% said they were currently using professional 401(k) investment advice.

At the same time, 401(k) participants said receiving professional assistance could help improve their financial situations, with 70% saying they would like personalized investment advice for their 401(k) plans.

“In our experience, people who use 401(k) investment advice tend to save more, are better diversified and stay the course during market uncertainty,” Catherine Golladay, senior vice president of participant services and administration at Schwab, said in the statement.

“Advice helps build confidence, too. Roughly three-quarters of the people we surveyed say they’d feel very or extremely confident making 401(k) decisions with the help of a financial professional. Only 44% would feel that same level of confidence on their own.”

The survey showed that participants also wanted help setting specific benchmarks for their retirement, including:

  • Calculating how much money they need to save for retirement: 46%
  • Determining at what age they can afford to retire: 43%
  • Figuring out what their expenses will be in retirement: 39%
  • Anticipating tax expenses in retirement: 38%

Poll respondents’ desire for guidance extends beyond 401(k) investing and retirement planning, as 85% said they would be interested in using a financial wellness program if their employer offered one.

The survey showed that people were already managing basic financial tasks at work. Sixty-seven percent were paying bills, 62% taking care of personal financial issues, 56% managing their 401(k) and 41% monitoring nonretirement investment accounts.

“An increasing number of employers now recognize that a workplace financial wellness program can not only help alleviate the financial stress employees feel, but it can also increase retention, loyalty and engagement,” Anderson said.

Presidential Election

Personal finance issues could help drive the upcoming presidential election, Schwab’s survey found.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents said the ability to save enough for retirement was a major public policy issue.

Participants seesawed, though, on which presidential candidate would ensure their own economic security. On pocketbook issues, Hillary Clinton was up 52% to Donald Trump’s 48%.

In the survey, 61% of women and 60% of millennials favored Clinton, while 55% of both men and baby boomers supported Trump.

Another recent survey — this one of the general population — found that although retirement security did not register as a major concern in the upcoming election, nearly two-thirds of Republican respondents were “more worried” about their retirement savings in a Clinton presidency, and nearly as many Democrats expressed the same concern if Trump is elected.


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