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Retirement Planning > Retirement Investing

Americans Are Confident About Their Finances. Retirement? Not So Much.

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Seventy-five percent of participants in Fidelity Investments’ Retirement Mindset Study, released Tuesday, said they felt only somewhat confident to not confident at all in being financially prepared for retirement.

This compared with 62% who said they felt confident about their current financial health, and 65% who said they were more confident today than they were one year ago.

These findings were based on an online survey Brookmark Research Services conducted between Feb. 25 and March 2 among 1,429 adults, 23 to 74 and older.

The Fidelity study, which examines different attitudes Americans have toward retirement, sought to find out the cause of uncertainty about retirement, given respondents’ confidence about their current finances.

Lack of planning looms large. The study suggests that a significant number of people in the general population have not even considered creating a plan for retirement.

Many survey respondents said they had thought about creating one, but only 18% had prepared a comprehensive written plan for their retirement.

Twenty-three percent of those who did not have a written plan said they had never thought of having to prepare one, 22% said they did not know where to begin and 20% felt they were too far behind for a plan to make a difference.

The study found that lack of planning cuts across generations. Seventy-nine percent of baby boomers did not have a written financial plan for retirement. Likewise 81% of Gen Xers and 87% of millennials.

“We know many people feel overwhelmed by the prospect of creating a plan for retirement,” Melissa Ridolfi, vice president of college and retirement leadership at Fidelity Investments, said in a statement. “The good news is you don’t have to be a great planner or take giant leaps to get started.

“Whether you’re a millennial or a boomer, or think of yourself as a planner or not, the small steps you take today can lead to a greater sense of confidence about your retirement years. It’s never too early or too late to get started.”

Retirement Planning Motivators

The Fidelity study looked for what might motivate retirement planning if retirement itself does not do so.

It found that specific life events, such as divorce or a death in the family, or an economic situation like market volatility, which usually inspire people to gain more financial control of their retirement, did not rise to the top as common motivators.

Asked which event most inspired them to gain more control over their retirement finances, 30% said there was no specific event, only a feeling that they needed to do so. Twenty-five percent said they had not yet gained control over their finances.

Fidelity said this does not suggest that people are not concerned about what could happen in the future. When asked which one of the economic “what ifs” worry them the most, the 38% cited rising health care/long-term care costs, and 28% said Social Security benefits were their biggest worry.

Many also expressed concern about uncertainties related to their lifestyle in retirement. Asked which of the lifestyle “what ifs” worry them most, 49% worried about having to downsize their home or move because of high cost of living, adjusting their lifestyle to accommodate a fixed income and outliving their assets — with the latter being the single biggest concern.

“Stress over future uncertainties is often a reality, and while we can’t necessarily predict or control them, we can account for them with a plan,” Ridolfi said.

She said a good first step was estimating how much one might need in retirement and whether one is on track to be able to cover those expenses. From there, one should consider current savings habits and investing strategies to help close any gaps over time.

According to the Fidelity study, 49% of respondents who had put a retirement plan in place said they felt in control. Forty-three percent said they felt good about themselves and 30% felt relieved. Only 10% reported that they still felt stressed.

Asked what would be the most helpful small step to take toward planning for a better retirement, one-third of respondents said starting to save as much as possible each month.

— Check out How to Conquer the Fear of Financial Planning on ThinkAdvisor.


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