At a time when economic anxiety is increasing, 78% of Americans in a new survey who said they had a retirement savings plan reported an overall sense of well-being, compared with 52% without one, according to BlackRock.
Sixty-nine percent of respondents said financial health had a significant influence on their well-being — on par with physical and mental health and relationships.
However, only 56% had started to save for retirement, and just 45% felt confident they would achieve what they considered their ideal retirement.
Why? Many said they were too worried about their current financial situation to think about the future. Fifty-six percent cited high cost of living, 49% health care costs and 34% rising prices as the biggest threats to their current financial health.
Equally worrying, BlackRock said, was that only 44% of U.S. respondents reported having any market-based investment holdings at all.
It said there was a high correlation — a “virtuous circle” — between planning for the future and a sense of overall contentment. Those with a higher sense of personal well-being were also four times likelier to feel confident about their retirement income.
“For too many people, investing and retirement planning are all about an intangible future,” BlackRock’s president, Robert Kapito, said in a statement. “Thus, the incentive to start saving today just hasn’t been strong enough.”
But the survey found that immediate benefits accrue to those who start saving early, Kapito said. “Much as physical exercise has both short- and long-term benefits, focusing on retirement planning helps alleviate stress and improves your overall well-being today. Saving for your future retirement pays immediate emotional benefits.”
BlackRock’s survey examined investing behaviors of 27,000 respondents in 13 countries, including that of some 4,000 in the U.S.
Women in particular are missing out on the financial and emotional benefits of investing, according to BlackRock. Only 52% of American women in the survey said they had started to save for retirement. Sixty-four percent of this group said the mere thought of investing was a source of stress, compared with 50% of U.S. men who reported similar angst.
The survey found that just 38% of U.S. women invested in the financial markets, and 55% maintained that investing was not for “people like me.” American women who do invest take a more cautious approach than men, according to the findings, with 38% willing to increase their investment risk to achieve higher returns, compared with 56% male investors.
Millennials in the survey reported worrying about their finances more than any other age group. This cohort represents a third of the U.S. workforce, BlackRock noted, citing a Pew Research analysis.
Seventy-seven percent of millennials complained about too many investment options to choose from, and 59% said they did not know where to go for retirement planning advice. At the same time, 84% of the young adult respondents believed their financial outlook would improve if they started investing.
“Millennials, more than any other generation, have embraced technology in nearly all aspects of their lives,” Kapito said. “The industry should work to meet millennials where they are — and build better and more intuitive systems that help prepare them for retirement as early as possible.”
BlackRock emphasized that given the challenges many Americans see to actively engage with their retirement planning, easy-to-use investment solutions could help alleviate both financial and emotional barriers.
Among U.S. respondents who had started investing, 70% said new technology solutions would help them be more involved in their investments. In addition, 83% of those who said they worked with a financial advisor reported a high sense of well-being, compared with 61% of those who do not avail themselves of advice.